Dr. Ken Brantley of Richmond Joins Business Owners to Ask Wellpoint CEO Angela Braly for Explanation of Anthem’s Practices That Hurt Small Business Owners
Indianapolis – Representatives of Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the Virginia Organizing Project and the Main Street Alliance (MSA) lambasted WellPoint Inc.’s CEO and board members today at the insurer’s annual shareholder meeting for abusing consumers, funding a duplicitous campaign to block health reform and taking too much money from rate-payers for executive compensation.
Ken Brantley, an independent optometrist from Richmond, Va., said the company continues providing poor service to health care providers. “I still have serious concerns about how Anthem will address the need to better reimburse clinicians while balancing the value of the services they provide,” Brantley said. “They need to update their models so there is more equity for policyholders and for clinicians like me.”
The critique of WellPoint, the largest health insurer, and the operator of Virginia’s largest health insurance company Anthem, was delivered on behalf of shareholders who object to the recent increase in CEO Angela Braly’s total compensation (up 51 percent in 2009 to $13.1 million) and the company’s submission of inaccurate data to get California regulators to permit double-digit premium increases for individuals this year. Small-business owners attended the meeting to express outrage over their mistreatment at the insurer’s hands. Their questions centered on the failure of WellPoint to act in the interest of 34 million members or the shareholders who collectively hold $23 billion worth of WellPoint stock.
Dr. Ken Brantley also addressed WellPoint’s practice of spending a low percentage of premiums on actual insurance claims. “Nowhere is this exposure more evident than in my own state of Virginia, where WellPoint subsidiary Anthem reported medical loss ratios of just 72% for individual business and 67% for small group in 2009, far below the incoming 80% minimum requirement. Without serious changes to this business model, shareholders will be forced to pay major rebates to Anthem’s customers.
“The practice of rationing also creates reputational risk and damages the company’s standing. My own family used to be covered by Anthem. But after my wife left her job at a bigger company to come to work with me and expand my practice, we had to reapply for coverage. We were denied. We were informed my wife had a pre-existing condition – her pregnancy. Because Anthem denied our application on this pretense, my wife had to give birth without health insurance. Our baby daughter had to be born without health insurance. She’s six months old now and we still don’t have health coverage, thanks to Anthem’s denial of coverage,” said Brantley.
Not everyone at the shareholder meeting was able to give voice to all their concerns. Shortly after Braly began to answer Dr. Ken Brantley’s question, her response was interrupted when board member William H. T. Bush collapsed and needed emergency medical aid. Braly adjourned the meeting. Rob Stone, an Indiana emergency doctor and aWellPoint shareholder who urged the company to stop laundering money through front groups to pursue its legislative goals, rushed to Bush’s side to provide medical care. Although shareholders asked the company to resume the meeting after Bush was stabilized, the company refused. Stone and other activists didn’t have the opportunity to ask Braly about noted investor Warren Buffett’s recent decision to sell his entire stake of 1.3 million shres of WellPoint stock.
“WellPoint was already under siege from outside for putting greed before the best interests of families and businesses struggling to pay soaring premiums, and now shareholders are upset too,” said HCAN insurance campaign director Tom Swan, who addressed the WellPoint leadership shareholder. “Braly has inflicted severe damage on the company by orchestrating its continuing abuse and lies, and now we know that investors like Buffett are fed up.”
The company held the meeting in downtown Indianapolis near its headquarters, and the event was followed by a rally across the street from WellPoint’s offices that featured former industry insider Wendell Potter.