WebMD, the world’s second-most-popular website for health advice, has very quietly secured a government contract in which it agrees to promote Obamacare and educate doctors about it.
Representatives of the website have argued that this does not constitute a conflict of interest, since WebMD would be allowed autonomy to present its own take on medical news and advice, and this particular government contract affects only its private portal for doctors. That is, for now. A contract for educating the public about Obamacare is also under way.
And actually, even the potential for government money was already affecting WebMD before it had secured the contract. When Obamacare finally rolled off the factory floor (a little worse for the wear), WebMD was among the first sites to coo its praises. And the Obama administration also had some nice things to say about WebMD. Let the mutual back-scratching commence. The Washington Times reports:
When the website announced its online portal in August, Mrs. Sebelius provided a quote for the company’s press release saying the Web page would educate consumers and help “improve the quality of healthcare for millions of people across our nation.”
Weeks later, the company received a $4.8 million task order on an existing contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to educate health care professionals about parts of Obamacare, records and interviews show.
And this isn’t the first time WebMD has sold its thin veneer of “unbiased independence” to advertisers. Recently, the site came under fire for posting an online “health screening” test on mental health, in which absolutely 100% of survey-takers wound up being told they were “at risk for major depression.” What survey-takers didn’t necessarily understand was that the health screen was sponsored by Eli Lilly (the huge pharmaceutical company that makes the anti-depressant Cymbalta). This was a promotion for depression drugs, not really an independent service to consumers.
If WebMD is comfortable selling out to the drug companies, I can’t imagine they will show more compunction concerning the civil government. In order to keep their government contracts, it is very likely they will say whatever they are told to say. Bottom line: I would avoid WebMD in general. They are not a trustworthy or independent source for medical advice.