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Protesters Plan ‘Citizens Arrests’ of Health Insurers’ Leaders in D.C.

by Bob Graham

A number of health reform advocates, including labor groups, plan to protest outside the hotel where a number of top health care executives are scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C., Tuesday (March 9).

People attend a 'Health Care for America Now' rally in Baltimore on February 22. (AFP/File/Tim Sloan) The protest, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Dupont Circle, is designed to disrupt a meeting of the Association of Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an insurance industry trade group representing about 1,300 insurance companies who provide health plans to nearly 200 million Americans.

Protesters, organized by Health Care for America NOW!, which includes the support of a number of labor unions, say they want the event to increase support for President Barack Obama's heath reform proposal. The president continues to call for Congress to act on his proposal in the next few weeks.

Organizers of the protest say they plan to "deputize" participants so they can "conduct a mass citizens' arrest" of the insurance executives inside the conference, according to a website titled "Citizens' Posse." Those who cannot attend the protest are being told they can be "deputized online" by Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, a music group, for a virtual protest.

The protesters plan to "confront the insurance company defenders and CEOs who make money by jacking up rates while providing less medical coverage or dropping policyholders altogether," according to a statement on the Health Care for America NOW! website.

Like the president and some Democratic members of Congress, protest organizers accuse insurance companies of taking large profits while raising rates and making it harder for people to obtain coverage in the U.S.

"The insurance industry's lobby front group is back in D.C. to defend their criminal health care system and plot to kill health reform," according to a website for Health Care for America NOW! "Reform groups are gathering a citizen's posse to hold them accountable for their crimes against Americans' health - and make sure Congress passes reform now."

AHIP is scheduled to hold a policy conference at the Ritz Carlton in Washington March 9 and March 10, according to the protesters.

Officials from AHIP did not respond to phone calls seeking comment nor would they confirm that a meeting was scheduled in the Ritz Carlton hotel for March 9.

The protest is expected to include more than 50 major labor, organizational, and religious leaders, who will team up with 25 survivors of "health insurance industry abuse" to lead the crowd, the statement said.

Other members of the insurance industry also are holding a meeting in the District this week. The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) is holding its annual Capitol Conference, where members meet their local legislators representing them in Congress to discuss bills affecting their businesses, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington through March 10.

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