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Protestors show up for WellPoint meeting

May 21, 2008
A depressed stock price and a protest brought a bigger-than-usual crowd to WellPoint Inc.'s annual shareholder meeting this morning.

About 80 people filled a conference room at WellPoint's headquarters on Indianapolis' Monument Circle. After the meeting, WellPoint CEO Angela Braly answered questions from five shareholders, many of whom cited the 30-percent drop in share price WellPoint has suffered since March.

"The business model has served us well over the last 10 years, but more recently, it hasn't been so good," said Dr. Rob Stone, an emergency room physician from Bloomington.

Stone was one of a handful of shareholders at the meeting who also participated in a protest on Monument Circle staged before the meeting. The protest, organized by Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, drew about 50 people.

Some of them held signs reading, "Health Care For People Not Profit," and "Universal Health Care Now!" The organizing group advocates for a Medicare-for-all type plan that would significantly undercut WellPoint's business.

During WellPoint's meeting, WellPoint shareholders re-elected six directors, and Braly gave a presentation about the company's business, which has struggled lately.

"We do believe the economic environment is affecting our membership," Braly said. But at another point, she added, "WellPoint has the best value proposition in the industry."

WellPoint shareholders did not approve a "say on pay" proposal that would have allowed shareholders to issue a non-binding opinion on executive compensation every year.

The proposal was brought by a representative of Denise Nappier, treasurer of the state of Connecticut. A vote total was not available immediately after the meeting.

Nappier's representative, Ed Ramthun, said that even though WellPoint shareholders did not approve the proposal, "there seems to be growing support for the concept."

He said 11 companies have approved such "say on pay" proposals since 2007.

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