It’s happened in earlier Washington battles where powerful business interests have been threatened: corporate executives pressuring their employees into taking action on behalf of the firm’s perceived political interests.
And now it’s happening on health-care reform.
Employees of Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based pharmacy benefit manager that’s ranked 115 in Fortune’s rankings of America’s largest corporations, on Monday received an email from the firm’s CEO, George Paz. Titled “Take Action: Your Voice Matters on Healthcare Reform,” the email, obtained by TPMmuckraker, denounces the “rush to pass legislation that could fundamentally alter our current system without a full understanding of the costs and consequences of those changes.”
It then directs employees to a company web page which allows them to send an email to members of Congress, under the heading “Concerns With Health Care Reform.” That form email to lawmakers appears to come from an ordinary citizen, giving no indication that the sender works for a company that would be directly affected by reform.
It’s not hard to see why Express Scripts would oppose the reforms currently under consideration in Congress. Much of its business involves negotiating and managing drug benefits on behalf of large employers, especially government agencies. Anything that could weaken the current employer-based system of coverage — as some believe a public option could — threatens its business model. Hence the following line in the company’s form email to lawmakers: “[R]eforms should build on the successes of the current employer-based system.”
TPMmuckraker obtained the email from an Express Scripts employee who said he saw it as an effort by Paz to “convince, intimidate, and cajole as many employees as possible to become enlisted in sending correspondence to congressional offices.”
Here’s the full text of the email that Express Scripts employees received:
FROM: George Paz, Chairman & CEO
DATE: Aug. 3, 2009
SUBJECT: Take Action: Your Voice Matters on Healthcare Reform
Congress is considering a significant overhaul to the country’s healthcare system. There seems to be a rush to pass legislation that could fundamentally alter our current system without a full understanding of the costs and consequences of those changes.
We believe there are significant issues to be addressed with our current healthcare system, but we also believe:
* Reforms should build on the successes of the current employer-based system.
* Policies should actually lower healthcare costs.
* And, in this economic environment, we should be particularly concerned about additional costs, public or private.
Healthcare is a vital issue that affects everyone. With so much at stake, our elected officials need to hear from you. We’ve set up a website to make it easy for you to send a letter electronically to your senators and representative asking them to get healthcare reform right.
Thank you for taking the time to do this. Your voice matters to your elected officials.
In 2004, the state of New York sued Express Scripts for fraud, accusing it of pocketing $100 million in drug rebates that should have gone to the state. The company ultimately paid a multi-million dollar fine to settle the charges.
A P.R. representative for Express Scripts pledged to respond to a request for comment about the email from TPMmuckraker, but did not immediately do so. We’ll update if we get a response.