Tuesday, March 09, 2010

60's style demonstration greets health insurance trade group meeting in Washington: a report from the street

I went to the “event” today in Washington: the congregation, march and demonstration in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel near George Washington University in Washington DC today, as the trade group “American Health Insurance Plans” (link -- note the group's claim to support bipartisan insurance reform!) met.

The hotel does not look that large or impressive (given its conspicuous brand name), when compared to another facility at Tysons Corner (where Digital Media usually meets); I had thought the trade group would choose a ritzier venue up on Connecticut Avenue.

The protest group had assembled at Dupont Circle, and made the short march to 22nd and M Streets around 11 AM. There was plenty of “Hey .. Ho…” from demonstrations back in the 1970s. The overall tone of the demonstrations was an emphasis on “need” rather than “responsibility”. I wondered about this when I saw demonstrators with cigarettes! Yet many of the individual posters were compelling, as were some stories told to the crowd, such as one teacher who lost his signt for inability to come up with $3000. Two actors dresses as billionaires, claiming that health insurance reform wasn’t for them (just then I ran out of memory on my camera). There were plenty of signs calling for single payer, and for public option. There was a sign objecting to the recent Supreme Court decision turning corporations loose with lobbyists. (Note the tone and the belief in a zero-sum game: If "they" (the lobbyists) win, "we" lose.) There were plenty of mock “wanted” signs for health insurance company executives (look at "Citizens' Posse" here). At one point, some people at the march deputized themselves. There was horse dung on the street! The major media outlets, particularly CNN, were present in force, but not easily identifiable. Well, we’ll keep ‘em honest.

The crowd was composed of teams identified by rainbow color: purple, green, orange, yellow, blue and red.

The outrage of the crowd seems particularly directed at recent attempts by health insurance companies to announce enormous increases in individual premiums. Another practice that deserves outrage is the practice from hospitals and providers of charging about five times as much for procedures without insurance as to patients covered by a corporate insurance contract or Medicare.

Remember, in the series “V”, Anna promises the whole world free health care. That seems to sell the whole show for ABC.

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