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Grigor Sarkisyan tells us of his daughter who was denied treatment and died because of it, as Dr. Matt Hendrickson MD and others get arrested and protesters chant “CIGNA profits, people die, arrest the real criminals.” This happened in Glendale CA as similar sit-ins at health insurance companies take place around the country. Over 900 people have signed up to risk arrest at these ongoing sit-ins including a number of doctors. They do not accept the public option as the answer to this problem. Only a single payer system that covers all Americans at affordable costs is acceptable and these rallies and sit-ins will continue until that happens.

In Louisville KY seven occupied the Humana lobby for over 24 hours. Humana allowed them to stay as long as they wanted and stated they too want health care reform.

In Warwick, CT, sit-protesters, including Robert Darling, a cancer patient being denied care, occupied the United Health Care office, demanding that the insurer cover Robert’s bone marrow transplant immediately. The CEO was unavailable but the PR manager talked with them and promised to meet with Mr. Darling within a week to answer him.

San Francisco 40

40 risked arrest at a San Francisco sit-in while 200 rallied in support and 30 others blocked entrances to Blue Shield offices. Protesters advocated a “single-payer” system in which the state or federal government would create one system of health insurance to cover everyone, as would be created by Rep. John Conyers’ H.R. 676, which would improve Medicare and expand it to cover everyone. The California legislature has twice passed bills creating a similar single-payer system on the state level, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed both these bills.

In New York nine were arrested at a Welpoint sit-in.

New York Nine

New York Nine

Simone Morse, a 19-year old student at Hunter College, was the first to be handcuffed and pulled up from the floor this morning at 1 Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan, the corporate offices of WellPoint, one of the largest health insurers in the United States.

Cameron Gibson, a 23-year-old medical student at SUNY Downstate, was one of the next to go, followed by Frank Broadhead, a 67-year-old senior on Medicare, who was carried out on his back and deposited into a nearby police van by two members of the New York Police Department. In total, nine protesters were arrested on Wednesday morning on charges of disorderly conduct and/or trespassing, according to an NYPD officer on site who spoke off the record.

Matt Hendrickson, MD, arrested at the Glendale Ca CIGNA sit-in.

Matt Hendrickson, MD, arrested at the Glendale Ca CIGNA sit-in.

Matt Hendrickson, MD explains why he was willing to risk arrest at the CIGNA sit-in in Glendale.

“My name is Matt Hendrickson, I am an Emergency Physician and a member of Physicians For A National Health Program.

I am sitting in at Cigna tomorrow to ask Cigna why the health insurance industry is denying health care.

Why are they charging America a 25% tax on all healthcare transactions to support a system that avoids the sick? Why has the number of physicians grown by 200% in the last 40 years while the number of insurance administrators has grown by 3,000%? Why does their industry have 1 million administrators, while there are half as many physicians and Medicare only has 15,000 employees?

Why does Medicare pay their chief executive $150,000 while Cigna pays Ed Hanway $12 million? Why is their industry raising premiums for small businesses by 15% a year? And then diverting 15 cents off every dollar to deny care to their paying customers.

I’m going inside Cigna today to ask these questions. I’m going to bring some pictures with me. Some of the faces will be familiar to Cigna.

Like Nataline Sarkisyan who lived in Glendale until she was 17 when she died because Cigna denied her transplant.

But they may not know Jenny Fritts who was 24 when this picture was taken with her two-and-a-half year old daughter Kylee. She was also seven and a half months pregnant with her second child- a beautiful baby girl. Jenny is dead. Jenny’s unborn baby is dead. They died because she was turned away for appropriate care from a for-profit hospital due to lack of insurance.

I want Cigna to know about this young woman, seen here at her two-year-old son’s birthday. She came to my ER with a mole behind her ear and a swollen lymph node. Her husband had recently lost his job when their tech firm downsized.

We recommended she get a biopsy. The family used part of their savings to get the biopsy done promptly by paying cash. The biopsy revealed metastatic melanoma. Now the Thomas family has no income, depleted savings and the mother of their three young children has an invasive cancer with no health insurance.

If Cigna won’t let me inside their offices, I’ll sit down outside and wait to speak to them. If police won’t let me wait, I will be arrested. It is my duty as a physician and my honor as a citizen to be speak out for My patients who are losing their savings, losing their homes and losing their lives because of the existence of the private insurance industry.

America cannot wait any longer. Our uninsured cannot wait. Our small businesses cannot wait. Our middle class cannot wait.

This is just the beginning Cigna. Other physicians are risking arrest today. And there will be more next month, and the month after that. We will not stop speaking out for our patients and stating unconditionally that private health insurance must go.”

Matt Hendrickson, MD MPH
Vice Chair, PNHP/CaPA LA
Chair, LA Single Payer Coalition

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