Friday, September 25, 2009
Health Care Reform Rally, III: Street Theater
The SEIU strikers (see yesterday's post) joined a crowd already gathered in front of the Aetna Insurance headquarters before the scheduled 3:30 start of the rally. People had a range of signs both handmade and printed. The union folks marched and chanted, to be joined by newcomers representing other unions, and people from a number of progressive organizations. All watched over with what struck me as quite a sympathetic eye by the Hartford police assigned to keep order and protect public safety. Private security stayed a little farther away but to me looked edgy and nervous compared to the cops.
One of the striking health care workers from local 1199 told the crowd what she'd told me earlier on the picket line, that their employers were trying to lower both wages and health benefits even though their compensation is already painfully low. Other people came to the microphone and recounted their own heath insurance nightmare stories.
Then some street theater began. The man with a bullhorn waving wads of (play) money around announced himself as "a big insurance CEO." He shook the bills and proclaimed that he only made $24 million last year, and "that's no where near enough! I work hard denying your claims, I should make much more than just 24 million dollars."
One of the hand written sign clarified the reference, alleging that Aetna's CEO's 2008 compensation amounted to $24.3 million (click on any of the pictures to see a larger version, then use your browser's back button to return).
Later two people played the role of insurance company executives sitting at the "Corporate Profit Protection Board." Others presented case histories of people whose claims had been denied or insurance rescinded. These claims of course were then rejected again by the insurance executive impersonators. These routines were strangely affecting. The crowd reaction combined laughter at the satire with outrage that the satire was based not on exaggeration or hyperbole, but on actual claim denials.