WOODLAND HILLS, CA — Activists and customers protested Tuesday at Anthem Blue Cross offices in Woodland Hills and nationwide to criticize the company’s role in the national health care debate.
Organized by a coalition of health care reform groups and labor unions, the protesters claimed that Wellpoint — Anthem Blue Cross’s parent company and the nation’s largest insurer — is working to oppose health care reforms by the Obama administration.
They claimed the company is trying to block legislation because it fears changes in its coverage practices and a loss of profits.
Outside Anthem’s Woodland Hills office, 150 protesters held signs as simple as "Healthcare for all Americans!" Some carried a stretcher that held a skeleton with a sign that read: "Dying for insurance."
"These corporations are doing business with their own stockholders," said Barbra Friedman, a former communications director for Blue Cross. "If Sarah Palin says there are death panels, then I would agree. But the death panels are up there," she said pointing to the Anthem sign.
"Their anthem is ‘just say no"’ to the average American," she said.
Friedman and others maintain that the "public option," within the administration’s health care reform plan is needed to create strong competition.
Anthem officials issued a statement rebutting the protesters’ claims.
"At Anthem Blue Cross, we are actively engaged in a constructive dialogue with members of Congress and the administration about how we can get healthcare reform done right," the company said.
"We were among the first to suggest substantive changes, and we continue to advocate for sustainable, responsible reform."
The protest was organized by a coalition of groups under California Health Care for America Now, including Health Access California, California Partnership, California Labor Federation, California ACORN, MoveOn.org and SEIU.
"While Congress is debating the health care issue, we want Americans to stand up and show their support and debate all the issues," said Jerry Flanagan, policy director for Consumer Watchdog, who also was at the Woodland Hills protest.
The demonstrations were held the same day that U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, unveiled a revised health care proposal that would provide subsidies to help low-income Americans.
In addition to Woodland Hills, protests in California were held in downtown Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Ana and San Diego. Similar events were organized in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Hartford, Conn.