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Activists plan to protest WellPoint political giving at meeting

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A mix of union groups, activist investors and single-payer advocates plan to harangue WellPoint Inc.’s directors Wednesday during and after the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

The groups claim that the Indianapolis-based health insurer has used its corporate funds secretly to finance public policy positions they don’t like, such as the 2011 rollback of collective bargaining rights for public employees in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as advertisements opposing the health care reform law as it was being debated in 2009.

Activists are calling for increased disclosure from WellPoint, and some investment funds have promised to vote against WellPoint board members who they say have failed to exercise proper oversight of WellPoint’s political spending.

“Health care dollars should be spent on patients, not political campaigns,” said Dr. Rob Stone, a Bloomington emergency physician who will present the shareholder resolution for greater disclosure during the annual meeting.

Stone, an advocate of having the U.S. government insure all Americans, has presented a variety of resolutions at WellPoint annual meetings for the past five years. Dr. Quentin Young, the national coordinator for Physicians for National Health Care, will help Stone present the resolution.

As Stone and Young speak, a variety of protestors will be outside the Hilton hotel in downtown Indianapolis, chanting criticisms of WellPoint. The protest is being organized by union-related groups Health Care for America Now, The 99% Power Campaign, Central Indiana Jobs with Justice and the Indiana AFL-CIO.

The shareholder proposal, advanced initially by California-based Harrington Investments Inc., is unlikely to pass. A similar proposal put forth at WellPoint’s annual shareholders meeting two years ago was voted down by 82 percent of the company’s shareholders.

And the proposal does not have the backing of key corporate governance groups, such as ISS and Glass Lewis.

WellPoint spokesman Tony Felts noted that the company already publishes an annual report titled “Political Contributions and Related Activity Report.”

“Some of this reporting ... goes above and beyond what others in our industry disclose,” Felts said. “We take positions, and make political contributions, solely on health care and health insurance-related issues. With over 70 years of experience in the health benefits field, we have good ideas to contribute to the discussion of improving the nation’s health care delivery system. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to our customers to remain engaged in health care policy discussions.”

However, Stone noted, WellPoint’s report does not include details on its contributions in 2009 to a television advertising campaign launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the health care reform bill. That campaign was funded in part by an $86 million contribution from America’s Health Insurance Plans, of which WellPoint is a member.

The secret campaign was revealed in a 2009 report from Bloomberg News.

“WellPoint has been kind of coy about answering questions about it, so we’re going to ask more questions at the meeting,” Stone said. He added, “If WellPoint is going to have a part in the long run, I think they need to be open and honest and cooperative, and work in a more straightforward way with the government regulations.”

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  • Campaign Donations
    During the Healthcare Debates of 2009, every member of the US House and Senate received in excess of $1.6 Million each, from Healthcare Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies. All of the donations are public records, and American Voters need to understand that these donations were not guided by political attitude, these donations were guided by a profit motive. Why else would these companies need to donate money to every politician in Washington? You should be asking yourself why every Democrat, Republican, and Independent needed these donations. Who really stands to profit from a bill that provides National Healthcare Coverage?
  • Where do you think the money comes from?
    I love the European socialist in this country who think everything would be fine if there were no rich people. If it weren't for the Angela Braley's paying taxes and organizing services where would the money come from...Government printing presses. Inflation would staggering and you would have to wait 6 months for a bypass operation as they do in Canada. There are laws regarding econmomics just as there are laws regarding gravity. When you go against them you have failure as witnessed in the former Soviet Union and Cuba. If you're so smart, why don't you change things in a meaningful way instead of crying about them. By the way, have you noticed how much your big union bosses make. Why aren't they working for minimum wage out of love and compassion. I just read Obama is now worth 10 million. You're asking the wrong people the wrong questions.
  • Kudos
    This thread delivers...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law
  • More handouts
    Every American already has the opportunity to have health care. However you need to work to have it. If you are unable to then you are covered by either Medicare or Medicaid. It is not handed to you like every other entitlement the Obama want. The last thing this country needs is the Federal government running healthcare, they can't even keep their own house in order.
  • Proper Use of Health Care Dollars
    Think of all the health care that could be provided with the multi-million dollar salaries of people like Angela Braley and the others at WellPoint who provide no health care services, but spend their time thinking of ways to make more and more money off of sickness, pain and suffering. Think of all the pain, suffering and early death that could have been prevented if the money Braley and others squandered trying to maintain the status quo was used to help people. Access to a basic level of healthcare to prevent early death, alleviate suffering and optimize health should be the right of every person. Most European countries take better care of their citizens than the U.S., because the profiteers are cut out.
    • Whoopee...
      Besides making public protest and constantly whining about their entitlements, do these union folks ever go to work?
    • 15 minutes.......
      Look like Dr. Stone trying to make a name for himself and is a proponent of socialized medicine. Not surprised he is from Bloomington.
    • Uh Oh
      I'm scared...

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