by East County Magazine / Oct 30, 2009
“Is there anything scarier than thinking you might need medical care, and getting canceled by a health insurance corporation who spent your premiums on TV ads and lobbying?” asks San Diegan Mike Copass, co-organizer of a 45-hour haunt of Blue Shield’s office at 2275 Rio Bonito Way in Mission Valley.
The actions are part of a national groundswell of civil disobedience at health insurance company offices by people seeking to end insurance abuse and win health care for all. So far, 115 people have been arrested in 18 cities demanding “real health care reform that treats health care like a human right, not a commodity,” according to a press release issued by event organizers.
Through non-violent action, the group hopes to highlight what participants perceive is one of the fundamental problems with the US health care system – abusive business practices of for-profit insurance corporations. The protest will commence with a prayer service at 10 p.m. on Halloween night, October 31 and ends with a rally at 6-7 p.m. on Monday, November 2nd. A sit-in is planned for Monday morning at 10 a.m. The public is welcome to participate; organizers ask that participants arrive at 9 a.m. for an orientation.
Following an overnight vigil outside the Mission Valley offices of Blue Shield, San Diegans will gather on Monday morning to address their concerns with corporate officers. Health insurance corporations, including Blue Shield, together spend millions of dollars annually on advertising, lobbying, and massive campaign donations to political candidates. The group will demand that Blue Shield’s CEO immediately cease those expenditures, which come directly from premiums paid by the people they insure, organizers of the protest note.
“The enormous amounts of money you’ve seen health insurance corporations lavishing on members of Congress, on non-stop TV ads, and advertising is killing us,” said organizer Jerry Malamud. “Where do they get the money they spend to rig debate about the health care system? By denying care to those who need it most. In California one out of every five treatments is denied [by] an insurance company, resulting in denial of treatments and deaths.”
He added, “hey get their lobbying dollars by jacking up our premiums at quadruple the rate of inflation, and denying essential care to policyholders. Americans are being made to foot the bill for their own enslavement to this corrupt for-profit system. We say ‘Enough!’”
Addressing their concerns directly to Blue Shield CEO Crystal Hayling, participants in the action are prepared to stay until their demands are met, braving detainment and arrest. As another organizer noted: “We think the national health care debate needs to focus on the real problem – the for-profit insurance corporations who don’t actually provide care. We demand that they fundamentally change the way they do business, and next Monday, we’re prepared to stay as long as that takes.”
Participants in the action are supported by the Single Payer Action Coalition, “SPAC” and members of Progressive Democrats of America, as well as allies in nursing, education and labor. The demonstration taking place in San Diego is coordinated with the nation-wide Mobilization for Health Care for All, which is in the midst of a wave of sit-ins and civil disobedience spanning 19 cities.
Although the planned civil disobedience action carries a risk of arrest and prosecution, Malamud and others are undeterred. “Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that passive obedience to an unjust and corrupt system has no place in a truly moral democracy,” he concluded. “We look forward to confronting the insurance corporations and CEOs, and to changing our world for better.”