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Reform talk dominates WellPoint meeting

By admin | May 26, 2009

CEO envisions a changing market, but activists say insurer is part of problem

By Daniel Lee
Indianapolis Star
May 21, 2009

Indianapolis-based WellPoint’s annual shareholders meeting Wednesday quickly evolved into a forum on the timely and politically charged topic of health-care reform.

Angela Braly, WellPoint’s chief executive officer, touted the idea of expanding the individual health insurance marketplace — in which WellPoint is a major player — to provide coverage for the estimated 45 million Americans without coverage. Government subsidies would be available for those who meet income guidelines and need help with premiums.

“It’s the private market that drives innovation and payment for value in the marketplace,” Braly told those gathered for the Downtown shareholders meeting. WellPoint, with more than 34 million members, is the nation’s largest commercial insurer in terms of membership.

Shareholder activists at Wednesday’s meeting, however, have a much different vision for health-care reform.

Dr. Rob Stone, a Bloomington physician who heads the advocacy group Hoosiers for a Common Sense Health Plan, called WellPoint and its industry the “biggest barrier” to affordable health care. Stone’s group is for a single-payer health plan, such as Medicare for all.

Two other members of the group, Julia Vaughn and Karen Green Stone, called Susan Bayh’s service as a WellPoint director a conflict of interest given that her husband is Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

WellPoint said that in an effort to avoid any conflict, its staff does not have any contact with Sen. Bayh. Susan Bayh, sitting with other directors, did not respond to protesters’ questions.

Susan Bayh joined WellPoint’s board in 1998 when the insurer was Anthem Insurance.

After the shareholder meeting, Hoosiers for a Common Sense Health Plan and other advocates held a rally on Monument Circle near WellPoint’s headquarters that featured Bloomington folk singer Carrie Newcomer.


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