Get Ready for a Mass Citizens' Arrest of Health Insurance Companies
I'm pretty heartened by the increased number of direct action campaigns these days. I've written about Move Your Money and Break Up With Your Bank, which are both great examples of ways to fight the banks directly, in face of lagging (or, frankly, non-existent) financial reform. In that populist vein of if-politicians-won't-do-it-we'll-do-it-ourselves comes Citizens' Posse, which aims to organize a mass citizens' arrest of health insurance companies on March 9. Indeed, it kind of takes the wind out of my own sails -- and I'm glad for it. During the peak of the health care debate last summer, some friends and I were halfway-jokingly discussing creating a Health Insurance Resistors' League, in the face of a bill that would mandate that we all buy the same crappy insurance from the same crappy insurance companies that have built the current health insurance landscape that (directly or indirectly) kills 45,000 people a year and leaves so many Americans financially (and physically and emotionally) bankrupt. Citizens' Posse appears to be linked to HCAN, or Health Care for America NOW!, the incredibly well-funded operation that has been fighting for the public option since last year. HCAN has headed many massive protests, and sent out many a petition, but perhaps they see a need for direct action to have some real effect on the tenor of the health care debate. The goal of the Citizens' Posse campaign, which will culminate at DuPont Circle in D.C. next Tuesday -- but which will involve an online component for those not in the capital -- seeks to "deputize" pissed-off Americans and have them arrest health insurance company "criminals." Check out these rather amazing "Wanted" signs for Karen Ignani, the CEO of AHIP, the health insurance lobby; Stephen J. Hemsley, the UnitedHealth CEO; and Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint— The tone of the campaign is a lot more angry than language and framing HCAN has used in the past. In fact, last summer, HCAN claimed support from many senators and congressmembers -- and even the White House. But perhaps they're coming to see that it's not enough to organize run-of-the-mill protests or sign online petitions -- or to work with the powers that be that are complicit in the health care problem. I can't quite tell whether they're really going to attempt actual citizens' arrests of health insurance lobbyists and executives, or if they're just going to threaten these people with the possibility of such citizens' arrests -- either way, I think the idea fueling Citizens' Posse is pretty awesome. More pitchforks, please.