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Citizens Confront Wellpoint: Giant Insurer a Poster-Child for Abusive Practices

The action is part of a wave of protests sweeping over big insurers opposing health reform.

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Moreover, WellPoint is a seasoned player in the Washington "revolving door" game. For example, WellPoint's former Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs, Elizabeth Fowler, now serves as Senior Counsel to Baucus. Fowler's predecessor in Baucus' office, Michelle Easton, currently lobbies for Wellpoint as a principal at Tarplin, Downs, & Young, a well-connected lobbying firm.

Leading the charge against health care reform is WellPoint CEO Angela Braly, the company's chief lawyer before moving up the corporate ladder to the top job in 2007. Last year WellPoint paid Braly $9.8 million. She lives in a 16,013 square foot mansion at 832 Alverna Drive in Indianapolis, valued at $1.98 million, according to the county assessor's office. She serves on the board of directors of America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's powerful lobby group.

According to Forbes, Braly's top priority is to " keep WellPoint a money machine." To help her, Braly has the backing of a powerful board of directors. The 16 other WellPoint directors have a web of corporate and political connections that supplements the company's campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures.

One is Susan Bayh, wife of Evan Bayh, the Democratic Senator from Indiana. She is a former attorney with the giant Indianapolis-based drug company Eli Lilly & Company. She is also a director of Curis (a drug company), Dendreon (a biotechnology company), Dyax (a biopharmaceutical company), and Emmis (a media corporation that owns radio stations and magazines). In the last two years, according to the Indianapolis Star, she has earned more than $2 million serving on the boards of these corporations. Her husband recently told an Indiana newspaper that he is an "agnostic" regarding the public option. That means he's sitting on the fence, trying to decide which side he's on -- the insurance industry or the majority of people of Indiana.

Another WellPoint director is William "Bucky" Bush, younger brother of former President George H.W. Bush, and the uncle of former President George W. Bush. He is chairman of the board of Bush-O'Donnell & Company, a St. Louis-based investment management firm, and former chair of the Missouri Republican Party.

Donald W. Riegle Jr. is another WellPoint director with political connections. He is a former Democratic Senator from Michigan (1976-1995). Since 2001 he has been chairman of government relations for APCO Worldwide, a DC-based lobbying firm that has been working secretly for years for AHIP, the insurers' trade group. He was also, until earlier this year, a director of Stillwater Mining Company, based in Montana, Baucus' home state.

Larry C. Glasscock, Braly's predecessor as WellPoint CEO, remains chairman of WellPoint's board and is also a director of Sprint Nextel (the giant telecommunications corporation) and Zimmer Holdings (an Indiana-based manufacturer of artificial hips and knees). William G. Mays is the CEO of Mays Chemical Company, based in Indianapolis. He also is on the board of Vectren, an energy company serving Indiana and Ohio. Ramiro Peru is chief financial officer of Saint Corp., a holding company of Swift Transportation Co., and previously CFO of Phelps Dodge, a mining company. Peru is also a director of Tucson Electric Power Co., and Unisource Energy Services, a utility based in Arizona. Warren Jobe, like Peru, is on the boards of both WellPoint and Unisource. Until his 2001 retirement, Jobe's day job was senior VP of Southern Company, a huge Atlanta-based utility. He is also on the board of the Atlanta-based HomeBanc Corp. and chairman of the board of trustees of Oglethorpe University.

William Ryan
is CEO of Banknorth, a Massachusetts-based financial services company. He is a director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and Maine Machine Products. Victor S. Liss, retired CEO and now vice chairman) of Trans-Lux Corporation (an electronics company), also serves on the boards of BNC Financial Group, the Bank of Fairfield and Honey Hill Care Center (nursing care facility) and a trustee of Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut. Jackie M. Ward sits on the boards of the Bank of America, SYSCO (a Houston-based food service company), Flowers Foods, and Sanmina-SCI Corporation (a San Jose-based global electronics company). She served as CEO of Computer Generation Inc . George A. Schaefer Jr. retired last year as chairman of the board of Directors of Fifth Third Bancorp, based Cincinnati, Ohio. He sits on the board of Ashland, a chemical company based in Covington, Kentucky.

 
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