Monday, November 2, 2009

Arrested: San Diegans Confront Blue Shield on Corporate Practices, non-violent disobedience action

November 2nd (San Diego) -- Blue Shield corporate offices in San Diego were the scene of a civil disobedience protest today, as three single-payer health care activists occupied the health insurance company's Rio Bonito Way offices.

Wearing hand-made shirts inscribed "Patients, Not Profits," San Diegans Mary, Carl, and Jerry(pictured at right) entered the office building of health insurance giant Blue Shield of California at approximately 10:30 AM on Monday.

The health care activists are part of a group called "Single Payer Action Coalition" (SPAC), and Monday's action was the promised follow-up to a letter presented last week to Blue Shield of California. Activists had requested that the insurance concern stop using the money from monthly premiums paid by policy-holders for the purposes of corporate advertising, TV campaigns and lobbying -- and instead use that money for patient care.

Blue Shield executives and representatives refused to meet with or talk to the activists, and instead called the San Diego police department (see photo, left.) More than 12 San Diego peace officers responded to the scene to deal with the 3 health care reform advocates who held their ground at Blue Shield's front door, and reiterated their requests. regarding. Police eventually took the activists into custody.

Through their non-violent action, the health care action group SPAC and its supporters hope to highlight what they perceive is one of the fundamental problems with the US health care system – self-dealing and abusive business practices of for-profit insurance corporations.

The actions are part of a national groundswell of civil disobedience at health insurance company offices to end insurance abuse and win health care for all. So far 115 people across the US have been arrested in 18 cities, while demanding real health care reform that treats health care like a human right, not a commodity.

The San Diego protesters were matter of fact about their demands, and refused to leave until their concerns were addressed, or they were physically removed from the site. (Mary Bell left, talking with San Diego police)

“The enormous amounts of money you’ve seen health insurance corporations lavishing on members of Congress, on non-stop TV ads, and advertising is killing us. Where do they get the money they spend to rig the debate about the health care system? By denying care to those who need it most – in California one out of every five treatments is denied an insurance company, resulting in denial of treatments and deaths,” said Jerry Malamud, pictured being taken into police custody below, right.

Added the silver-haired and energetic Malamud “They get their lobbying dollars by jacking up our premiums at quadruple the rate of inflation, and denying essential care to policyholders. Americans are being made to pay the bill for their own enslavement to this corrupt for-profit system. We say ‘Enough!’”

Noting that the civil disobedience efforts follow months of 'by the books' grass-roots efforts to bring attention to the need for fundamental reform to the health care system."We've written hundreds of letters, lobbied our representatives Congress, made phone calls, and held signs on street corners pointing out the abuses of insurance corporations. We hope through our efforts, including the non-violent confrontation today at Blue Shield, that we contribute to meaningful improvement of the health care system, and end the abuses that are linked to so much needless suffering and death. Patients, not profits."

During a 45 hour vigil at the site preceding the confrontation, activists gathered pointed out that failures of a for-profit health insurance system are linked to up to 45,000 deaths each year in America, adding that lack of national will to create universal coverage becomes literally a death sentence for thousands.

After having literally "placed their bodies against the grinding gears and levers of the health insurance machine," the activists arrested in a civil disobedience action today hope that their refusal to "passively collaborate with an unjust and immoral system" will help lead to a better system with "everybody in, nobody out."

(Below: Demonstrators including Progressive Democrats of America gathered in support of health care reform display signs at near Blue Shield offices just off Friar's Road in Mission Valley, San Diego)

- Filed by Mike Copass, for Liberty One Radio

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