Virginia Health Care Consumers Kicked out of Health Insurance Company Shareholder Meeting

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Media Release from Virginia Organizing

Coventry Execs Ignore Call for Greater Transparency and Accountability on Corporate Spending for Political Campaigns 

Activists Attend Coventry Health Care Annual Meeting in Tysons Corner, Va., to Educate Shareholders on Risks of Damage to Company’s Reputation and Business

McLean, VA – Consumer shareholders of Coventry Health Care, a major national health insurance company that serves 5 million people in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and 21 other states, attended the company’s annual meeting at the Tyson’s Corner Ritz Carlton on Thursday to urge executives to disclose their company’s direct and indirect spending on political campaigns.

Local activists from Virginia Organizing, Health Care for America Now and the
Northern Virginia Labor Federation were on hand inside and outside the shareholder meeting to demand greater transparency and accountability from Coventry officials. Several Virginia Organizing members, including Paula Neustatter of Fredericksburg, went inside the shareholder meeting to speak out in support of a shareholder proposal to disclose future monetary and non-monetary political contributions used to influence elections.

“We have to tell Coventry and other big insurance companies to stop trying to
purchase our democracy as they did in the last election cycle. When
corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence the
election we not only lose our voices but our chance at affordable health care
as well,” said Paula Neustatter, health care provider and Virginia Organizing
member.

“What happened in that shareholder meeting is that the executives realized that we have their number and plan on holding them accountable. The American people are not going to take this anymore. These big insurance CEOs cannot hide in corporate boardrooms anymore. We have a right to know how our health care
system operates and where our health insurance premiums go,” said Virginia
Organizing leader Joe Katz.

“Pretty soon health care is going to be a right and not a privilege and that is the
idea that frightens these CEOs the most. From inside the meeting room I could
see the look of fear in the eyes of Coventry’s CEO when he heard citizens just
outside the room chanting about the need for transparency and accountability,”
added Katz.

Coventry, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies and a member of a trade group that in 2009 secretly
contributed at least $86 million for ads run by third parties to oppose health care reform. The money was funneled through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which ran the attack ads while the insurers were claiming to support health reform.

Coventry and other insurers have resisted disclosure of political spending that would permit citizens and shareholders to make informed decisions, according to Health Care for America Now. The problem has grown since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling held that corporations may spend freely on election-related political activities. Companies that do so put their reputations – and their shareholders’ investments – at risk.

Activists also called on Coventry to improve it’s Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) which
determines how much premium money is spent on actual health care versus
administrative costs, profit and political contributions. As shareholders met
inside the conference room, protesters chanted “66 percent is not enough!”
outside the door, calling attention to the 66 percent MLR that makes Coventry
the worst in the industry.

Virginia Organizing is a statewide grassroots organization that
brings people together to create a more just Virginia.

Health Care for America Now is national grassroots coalition of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states representing 30 million people. HCAN led the fight over the past two years to win passage of health reform and to keep Congress from being steamrolled by corporate special interests.

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