Whoops! Insurance Company Emails Reform Group, Urges Them To Oppose Public Option

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It control’s about 50 percent of the state’s health insurance market, so it’s no real surprise that Anthem sells coverage to the Virginia Organizing Project–a activist group dedicated to, among other things, reforming the health care system.

But it’s a bit ironic that Anthem would try to enlist VOP members to call on Congress to oppose a public health insurance option.

We strongly support reform that builds a strong, sustainable private-sector health care system – and strongly oppose creating a government-run health plan. We are urging our elected officials in Washington to take bipartisan action that will accomplish that. We are educating policymakers in Washington and working with our trade associations to encourage Congress to build on the current system and not disrupt the quality, affordable coverage on which our members depend….

As our elected officials debate health care, they need to hear directly from you.

You can imagine how well that went over. On Friday, VOP staged a protest at Anthem’s Richmond headquarters, demanding that the company refund any money it spent on lobbying–and its executive director, Joe Szakos was arrested for trespassing. “The Virginia Organizing Project pays more than $300,000 per year in health insurance premiums. I walked into our health insurance company Friday to ask why they recently increased our premiums 14.1 percent and I walked out in handcuffs,” Szakos said.

This is an excellent example of the relationship the health insurance industry has with its customers. They do not feel that have to explain or account for anything. Anthem has little competition and they know their customers have few choices. Anthem and other health insurance corporations are spending $1.4 million per day lobbying Congress to make sure that Americans do not have a choice.

You can read the entire Anthem solicitation below the fold. I’ll try to get a few more details about the incident and pass them along to you. Whatever happened, though, and whether or not you agree with the tactics, the precipitating events–and the more general fact that insurers spend consumer health care dollars lobbying against efforts to decrease health care costs–bring to light just one of the many perverse aspects of the for-profit health insurance industry.

Congress has begun to debate how to reform our nation’s health care system, and it is important for them to hear from you. It is an historic opportunity to enact comprehensive reform that makes health care more affordable, improves quality and covers all Americans.

We strongly support reform that builds a strong, sustainable private-sector health care system – and strongly oppose creating a government-run health plan. We are urging our elected officials in Washington to take bipartisan action that will accomplish that. We are educating policymakers in Washington and working with our trade associations to encourage Congress to build on the current system and not disrupt the quality, affordable coverage on which our members depend.

Our elected officials need to hear from you

There is a role that you can play in this effort, too. As our elected officials debate health care, they need to hear directly from you. You understand the important role that private-sector health plans play in ensuring access to quality, affordable coverage.

Surveys show that the American people support a common-sense approach in which the public and private sectors work together to fix the health care system. We agree. Nonetheless, there are proposals in Washington that would threaten our ability to continue serving individuals, families and employers. We cannot allow that to happen.

That is why it is important for you to get involved in our grassroots effort. Here are some steps that you can take to get involved in the health care reform debate and to ask others to participate as well.

Getting involved is easy

There are several easy opportunities to make your voice heard:

1. Go to www.healthactionnetwork.com and sign up to be a part of our grassroots campaign. When you register you will learn who your federal representatives are.
2. Write a letter. Once you register on the Health Action Network, you will have the opportunity to send an email to your elected officials.
3. Make a toll-free phone call to share your views with your federal lawmakers. After you have registered on the Health Action Network site, you will have the opportunity to take part in a phone alert in which you will be presented with a toll-free number and a PIN to enter once you have dialed in. Your PIN will enable us to patch you through to the offices of your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative.
4. Post information on your Facebook page. Simply click the Facebook button provided on the Health Action Network and follow the instructions. The information will be published on your Facebook profile. Also, please be sure to become a fan of the Health Action Network on Facebook and encourage your friends and family to do the same!
5. Tell a friend. Once you have emailed your elected officials, you will have the opportunity to spread the word to family and friends by using our “Tell a Friend” feature.

The private-sector health care community is actively engaged in support of reform across the country. This effort gives all of us a chance to have our voices heard in Washington.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts in maintaining and enhancing the private-sector health care marketplace.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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