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14 Arrested at New York Sit-In Demanding “Medicare for All”

100 Risked Arrest in 9 Cities Nationwide

54 Arrested in 5 cities

New York, NY – On Thursday October 15th, advocates for “Medicare for All” in New York engaged in civil disobedience at UnitedHealth Group, resulting in 14 arrests. Nationally more than 100 risked arrest to disrupt business as usual at the nation’s largest health insurance companies, including UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Humana, Cigna, Anthem Blue Cross, and UnitedHealthcare. Another wave of protests are planned for October 28th.

“Private health insurance companies are the real “death panels”—they make decisions about people’s health care based on profits rather than the health of the patients. These death panels must be stopped,” says retired nurse Constancia Romily, 68, who was one of the “Aetna 17” arrested on September 29 while demanding the insurance giant approve all needed care for patients with life-threatening diseases.

As the healthcare reform effort has become increasingly watered down, anger

among ordinary citizens has escalated. As a result, a new coalition--Mobilization for Health Care for All--has formed to organize a wave of civil disobedience actions across the nation to demand real reform that goes to the heart of the problem: the need to eliminate the private health insurance industry and replace it with an expanded and improved Medicare for All system.

Tibby Brooks, a New York-based uninsured worker and arrestee: "I've been without health insurance for 15 years because none of my three jobs provide it and I can't afford the premiums that companies like UnitedHealth charge. As a result I'm going blind in one eye because I can't get the cataract surgery I need."

Steven Chinlan, a retired Episcopal priest who was also arrested, said, : "I'm here for a young woman by the name of Annie. She's 24, came through hard times, got a job, some college, and worked in the library. Unfortunately now she’s unemployed and recently she slipped on a manhole cover in the rain and hurt her leg, but since she has no health insurance she can't afford the minor operation to fix her leg. It's just awful to try to find a job when you're limping."

The target of Thursday’s sit-in, UnitedHealth Group, is the largest health insurance company in America. It had profits of $4.6 billion in 2008 and its CEO, Stephen Hemsley, earned $13 million in 2007 and $3.2 million in 2008. Its former CEO, William McGuire, raked in $124.8 million in 2005. The company spent $4.7 million in lobbying in 2008, while the healthcare industry as a whole is currently spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying.

“We are here because the legislation in the Senate Finance Committee is written by lobbyists, for lobbyists.  Congress isn’t listening to the public about healthcare reform because the industry bought them off.  So we are going to the people who control Congress to demand they stop blocking real reform and start saving lives,” says Laurie Wen, another “Aetna 17” arrestee. “ We want ‘Medicare for All,’ a single-payer system that saves money and takes care of everybody.”

The growing national civil disobedience campaign against the private health insurance industry was launched two weeks ago by Mobilization for Health Care for All, a national coalition of local groups organized by Prosperity Agenda, Healthcare-NOW! and the Center for the Working Poor.

Sit-ins at insurance companies are taking place in the following nine cities: New York, NY; Washington, DC; Cleveland, OH; Phoenix, AZ; Palm Beach, FL; Boston, MA; Reno, NV; Portland, OR; and Los Angeles, CA.