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by Brad Kutner
Outside Anthem Insurance’s Richmond headquarters on July 24, 2009, there is a protest. inside, Virginia Organizing Project Executive Director Joe Szakos is about to be arrested.
“I’m a customer, can I please put my phone away?”
Szakos came to anthem to discuss the 14.1 percent increase of the VOP’s annual health care premium. He was informed via a letter, a letter which not only detailed his rate hike, but also Anthem’s attempts to lobby congress for health-care reform in support of the private sector, lobbying to the total amount of $1.4 million dollars per day.
“The least you would expect, is to be able to go to the receptionist desk and say ‘who do we talk to?’”
said Szakos in a video provided by the VOP. After attempting to enter Anthem’s Office to talk with someone about his rate increase, the police were called. By 12:30 in the afternoon back on July 24th, Szakos was getting his mug shot taken in a Henrico County police office. He charged with Trespassing.
“We just want to talk to someone sir, Were just a customer.”
The VOP met with Anthem in Charlottesville Virginia earlier this week to discuss the rate increase. Jay Johnson, Chairperson of the VOP, discusses their meeting.
We went to ask them why there was a 14.1 increase in our premiums. And we felt we were entitled as customers to speak to someone in the corporate office about the percentage of our increase. I
His court date was set for Monday September 22, 2009, this past Monday. Szankos made it to court, how ever the subpoenaed witness, an Anthem employee, did not. The judge will see the case again on November 23, 2009. Wile unavailable for comment, in a press release from after the trial Szankos said.
“This trial is yet another example of an insurance industry that is out of control and accountable to no one. The fact that a paying customer can be arrested and taken to trial for trespassing on their own insurance company’s doorstep says a lot about the relationship the health insurance industry has with its customers.
When WRIR contact Anth
Szakos was charged with trespassing on Anthem’s property in Richmond, VA on July 24, 2009 when he and three VOP board members attempted to meet with Anthem officials. Szakos went to Anthem as a customer to discuss VOP’s concerns about a recent insurance premium increase and the company's lobbying against health care reform. Szakos’s trial is set for September 22, 2009, 11 a.m. at Henrico General District Court in Richmond, Virginia.