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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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On Tuesday, employees at WellPoint's headquarters at 120 Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis will be able to meet some of the victims of the insurance giant's greed. Several hundred people will rally at noon, including clergy, doctors and nurses, members of labor unions and community groups, and everyday citizens fed up with the health insurance industry's efforts to thwart much-needed reform. Like their counterparts at rallies around the country on the same day, people wronged by WellPoint will share their personal stories. In some cities, protesters will read the stories of those who are no longer alive due to insurance company abuses.

In Milwaukee, Marquette students, members of SEIU, AFSCME, and other unions, MICAH (a coalition of religious congregations), 9-to-5 (an organizing of working women), Wisconsin Citizen Action, and others will start picketing at 11:30 am outside the building where WellPoint CEO Braly will be speaking at a $400-per-table business luncheon. The goal is to "expose WellPoint's shameful business practices and abuse of patients," explained Brian Rothgery, Wisconsin coordinator for Health Care for America Now.

At all rallies around the country -- under the slogan "Big Insurance: Sick of It" -- protesters will demand that Braly and other health insurance company CEOs pledge to do the following:

• Not stand between a doctor and a patient when it comes to deciding what care that patient needs.
• Not deny coverage or raise rates for individuals or businesses based on a pre-existing medical condition and end arbitrary caps on payments for necessary medical care.
• Terminate any policy or incentive that rewards employees financially or otherwise for denying care and rejecting claims.
• Not use any resources -- including funds, employees, and facilities -- to lobby against or oppose any aspect of the health reform proposals supported by President Obama and being considered by members of the U.S. Congress, including but not limited to a national public health insurance option

"The health insurance companies are spending $641,000 a day to oppose reform because they profit by keeping the system exactly the way it is," said Richard Kirsch, HCAN's national campaign manager. "They take our money and then deny claims; raise premiums, co-pays, and deductibles at will; fabricate pre-existing conditions; and refuse to cover the treatments our doctors prescribe. Enough is enough. We're holding these events to tell big insurance we're sick of it. We need a guarantee of good coverage we can afford, and that includes giving us the choice of a strong national public health insurance option."

"The current health insurance system makes us sick -- as a country," said Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org, one of the cosponsors of the national day of protest. "If the health insurance industry wins in the health care reform debate, we will all lose. Health care reform with a strong public health insurance option will help lower skyrocketing health care costs and expand coverage to millions of Americans, but the health insurance industry opposes it because they are more concerned with protecting their sky-rocketing profits. It's time they got the message that we need real reform, now."

Peter Dreier, professor of politics at Occidental College, is coauthor of "The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City" and "Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century."

 
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