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Issue of the Week: WellPoint's Health Care Hypocrisy

Sep. 23, 2009
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While health insurance companies spend more than $640,000 per day on lobbying—and, yes, that is just for direct lobbying of Congress, not TV, radio and newspaper ads—to defeat health care reform, Marquette University invites the CEO of WellPoint, the second-largest health insurer in America, to come to Milwaukee to defend the practices of her company and the health insurance industry in general.

It is totally understandable that WellPoint CEO Angela Braly would be out on the stump defending the status quo, since her company made more than $2 billion in profits last year and she was paid a healthy $9.8 million in 2008.

“Ms. Braly’s so-called success as a CEO has been bought with the unnecessary suffering of many people who trusted her company to stand behind them in time of need,” said Nancy Holmlund, president of WISDOM, a faith-based Wisconsin organization. “WellPoint’s huge profits and Ms. Braly’s salary have come, in part, through aggressively denying benefits to sick people. Now they are using millions of dollars of those same profits to lobby Congress to deny reform to everyone.”

So how did WellPoint get so profitable?

  • According to the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, WellPoint rewards its employees for finding ways to drop coverage to sick policyholders.

  • According to the Feb. 13 issue of the Los Angeles Times, WellPoint sent out thousands of letters to doctors looking for conditions they could use to cancel coverage for patients.

  • The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee found that WellPoint lists 1,400 conditions, including cancer, that can lead to revocation of insurance coverage.

  • The Feb. 11 issue of the Los Angeles Timesreported that WellPoint was fined $15 million for dropping coverage for thousands of members after they submitted expensive medical bills.

And this is just a sampling of reasons for their profitability. It is no wonder that protesters were out in force at Marquette to try to set the record straight.

Hero of the Week:Iraq War Veteran Jason Moon

Milwaukeean and Iraq War veteran Jason Moon will be among those honored with a Peacemaker of the Year Award on Oct. 3 by the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. Moon, who served in Iraq from July 2003 through August 2004, is a leader in the Milwaukee chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Veterans for Peace (VFP). He also serves on the board of VFP’s Homeless Veterans Initiative, which seeks to find and assist homeless veterans in the Milwaukee area. For his service, as well as his courage in speaking out against the war, we applaud Moon and make him our Hero of the Week.

Jerk of the Week:Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker

While most mainstream politicians have distanced themselves from the far-right Tea Parties, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker embraced last weekend’s anti-tax rally sponsored by the Big Oil-funded Americans for Prosperity. But we have to ask: Was Walker, a Marquette University dropout, being ironic when he chose to wear a shirt touting the taxpayer-supported University of Wisconsin-Madison to an anti-government, pro-free-market rally? Did the longtime government employee speak the truth when he told the crowd at a county-owned park “What is failing us is our government”? Why did he fail to mention that his no-tax-increase budgets inevitably blow up every year? Like fellow rally-goers “Joe the Plumber” and ga-ga conservative pundit Michelle Malkin, Walker eagerly seeks out the spotlight, cameras and microphone, yet his accomplishments are nothing more than publicity stunts and political trickery. Beware, Wisconsin.


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