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Is Wisconsin Our Egypt? 15,000 Protest Off-the-Wall Right-Wing Governor's Policies

'I've never seen anything like it... there were Steelworkers, Teamsters, Pipefitters, building trades unions and more -- unions I've never seen at a rally in 10 years.'

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In a separate rally that same day, a coalition of groups presented the governor with the "heartless award" for his proposed plan to rollback the state's Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the plan, employees working less than 25 hours a week would lose access to family leave.

The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson writes, "In Egypt, workers are having a revolutionary February. In the United States, by contrast, February is shaping up as the cruelest month workers have known in decades."

Other actions you may have missed this month

-On February 1, just minutes before 250 citizens, including nurses, patients, and health advocates, gathered outside of Blue Shield's corporate headquarters in San Francisco, the company announced plans to delay raising health insurance rates by 59 percent for two more months. The announcement comes a week after Pacific Care, Anthem, and Aetna also agreed to postpone rate hikes for two months. California's insurance commissioner Dave Jones is currently reviewing the increases to determine whether they are necessary, but he doesn't have the authority to stop them.

“We are here because this is the scene of corporate crime. The bean counters upstairs don’t sit at the bedside and hold the hands of our patients," said DeeAnn McEwen, co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU). "A 60-day delay is a small victory, but it won't alleviate the pain experienced by patients every day who must endure callous price increases and care denials by an industry that cares more about its bottom line than the patients it purports to serve."

"Blue Shield’s announcement today won’t stop protests against Blue Shield or other insurance corporations," said CNA/NNU executive director Rose Ann DeMoro. "We can learn a lesson from the streets of Egypt and other Arab countries. Public pressure is essential to confront tyranny, whether you are faced with political repression or corporate control of our health. There are lives in the balance. We can’t count on legislators, regulators, courts or the lobbyists. We have to rely on the mobilization of people to stop these insurance abuses and step up the call for genuine reform, expanding Medicare to cover everyone."

At the rally, a number of people with Blue Shield insurance said they can no longer afford the premiums. Kerry Abukhalaf said her family's monthly rate increased from $420 to $540 in January. Before the delay was announced, she was notified that her rate would increase to $640 in March. “Our insurance is completely not worth the price. We pay almost half what we pay for rent,” she said with her son in her arms. “It's just a big rip-off. We may just throw our chances to the wind and find insurance for our son and pay out of pocket for my husband and myself.”

Members of groups including Healthcare Now, the San Francisco Labor Council, Consumer Watchdog, and Physicians for a National Health Program, also attended the rally.

According to a new CNA/NNU report, seven of California's main insurers rejected almost 13 million claims, or 26 percent of claims submitted in the first three quarters of last year.

“These rejection rates demonstrate one reason medical bills are a prime source of personal bankruptcies as doctors and hospitals will push patients and their families to make up what the insurer denies,” said McEwen. The national reform law signed by President Obama last spring has, to date, had no impact on the high pace of insurance denials."

WellPoint, the parent company of Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross beat Wall Street's expectations after it reported revenue of $14.42 billion. Fourth-quarter net income was $548 million. Aetna's fourth quarter net income increased to $215 million from 165 million last year. "It is a very good time for profits in the health-insurance industry," Robert Laszewski, president of consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates LLC, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

 
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