SAN DIEGO, CA. Thursday, June 4, 2009: AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) is a national lobbying organization representing over 1300 health insurance providers in the US. For the past few days they’ve been having their annual gathering at the San Diego Convention Center.
Over 3500 representatives from the insurance industry have been attending seminars, visiting the over 200 trade show exhibitors, and hearing from big name speakers like former Governors Jeb Bush (FL), Howard Dean (VT) and John Kithaber (OR) along with authors Michael Pollin (In Defense of Food) and Richard Thaler (Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness). Closing out the conference will be Tom Daschle, Former Senate Majority and Minority Leader.
A quick visit to AHIP’s web site shows that they are enthusiastically involved in “Health Care Reform”. You can read about all their proposals containing all the right rhetoric about controlling health care costs and expanded coverage for all Americans.
So, why was the street in front of the San Diego Convention Center lined with noisy protesters?
Two words sum it all up: “Single Payer”. With annual profitably in the neighborhood of $11 billion dollars, those are the two words that the health insurance industry fears most. AHIP and their associated lobbyists have worked long and hard to keep any reforms involving “single payer” off the table. And they’ve had a measure of success thus far, the kind of success fueled by massive campaign contributions and slick public relations programs designed to fool the public into thinking that the industry actually cares about health care.
Led by the California Nurses Association, along with Physicians for a National Health Program, and , the protests sought to call attention to the industry’s’ woeful record of denying coverage and care along with its diversion of billions of dollars from patient care to overhead, waste and near-obscene profit levels.
While the private jets of insurance company executives idled at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, a former nurse named Natalie told the crowd about losing her home and living in her car as she sought to keep her coverage in place for treating rheumatoid arthritis. In the end, she lost her coverage and can no longer afford treatment. Small business owner Neil Gordon told the crowd about his the losing battle to keep health insurance after suffering a heart attack.
Meanwhile, nervous looking conventioneers edged past the crowd on their way into the conference. They weren’t interested in hearing about how 59% of the American public favors a single payer health insurance program.
Or about how the United States ranks last among the leading industrialized nations in preventable deaths.
Or about how American companies can’t be competitive with foreign competitors because of the high health insurance costs they pay.
I’m sure the speeches inside were a whole lot warmer and fuzzier than the tales of personal suffering that were told out on Harbor Drive. UC Med Center Nurse Janice Webb did mange to slip inside for just a few minutes: (From Daily Kos):
With thousands of well-paid insurance executives around her waiting to hear from Jeb Bush and Howard Dean, Janice marched up to the stage at the San Diego Convention, where the moderator was droning on about how hard AHIP is working to find healtcare solutions — meaning legislation that will protect their position at the center of power over our health and the profits they make from the pain and suffering of patients.
Taking the mike, Janice held up a copy of an $11 billion dollar check, Janice then declared, to a mix of cheers and boos, “Nurses have the solution. You all need to get out of healthcare. We took up a collection and want to present this check to you to go away so we can finally institute a humane single-payer system for this nation…everybody in, nobody out!”
Of course it did not last long. Burly security men rushed the stage, grabbed Janice and a companion, and hustled them off. Hysterical AHIP security guards angrily denounced Janice, and demanded her arrest.
Instead, the police officers smiled, asked Janice if she had any warrants out, and started to describe the healthcare cutbacks they’re facing due to SDPD’s trouble with affording ever-rising insurance premiums, and escorted her outside where she was given a raucous welcome from a crowd of nurses, teachers, patients, doctors, and progressive democrats.