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Demonstration outside Blue Cross/Blue Shield office in downtown GR prompted because of Gov. Elect Whitmer’s appointment to Transition Team

November 15, 2018

(The following article was written by Alex Kelley. Photos are also credited to Alex Kelley.)

On Thursday, around 15 people from Our Revolution Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, and the general public showed up to protest and flyer at the Blue Cross Blue Shield office in downtown Grand Rapids in protest of Gretchen Whitmer’s appointment of Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Daniel Loepp.

As often happens in Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids Police Department was quick to perform their role of defending private property over peoples’ rights. A police captain came and spoke with the group within seconds of folks arriving. They asked the usual questions about what the plan was/whether we were planning on marching or disrupting etc, and gave the usual spiel about the BCBS office being private property and BCBS having the right to ask us to leave if we went inside. What was instructive but not particularly surprising in context of GRPD attempted surveillance of other organizations like Movimiento Cosecha GR was that GRPD had been monitoring the public Facebook event, as confirmed by the police captain. After the conversation with the captain the police limited their involvement to circling the block with 3 cruisers, one unmarked, throughout the hour and a half folks were there

The protesters handed out a flyer with the following text:

We demand Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer remove from her transition team Daniel Loepp, Blue Cross Blue Shield President/CEO.

We die or go deeply into debt because we are denied or cannot afford the insurance provided by companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. His addition was a betrayal to her voters
and the activists who worked tirelessly to put her in office. We ask that Whitmer consider what is
more important; our healthcare needs or the needs of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Our main concern is the level of influence Daniel Loepp will have behind the scenes of the Whitmer transition. Loepp being on Whitmer’s transition team gives the health insurance industry a dangerous level of influence in the governor’s office. Loepp and Blue Cross Blue Shield have given campaign funding to both Democrats and Republicans to protect their interests. While Whitmer rejected all criticisms that she was in the pocket of insurance companies, the decision to add Loepp to the transition team where he can represent the interests of Blue Cross Blue Shield is corrupt business as usual

Both we and our employers have seen higher premiums, making health care less affordable and accessible every day. We face routine denials for life-saving medication like insulin as well as life-saving procedures. We constantly find ourselves at the mercy of opaque network practices. Even with BCBS insurance, inflated deductibles make regular visits to the doctor for check-ups or work release notes an impossibility. Over 600,000 Michiganders are still without coverage. Dan Loepp oversees a company that makes its money by denying Michiganders vital services.

“Dan Loepp is on Gretchen Whitmer’s transfer team to protect Blue Cross Blue Shield, not the hundreds of thousands of uninsured and underinsured Michiganders this campaign was elected to fight for. If the Whitmer administration wants to prove their independence from big insurance industry donors, they should remove Dan Loepp, and fight for the 85% of Democrats and 52%
of Republicans who now support Medicare for All.” – William Toms, Michigan for Single Payer Healthcare.

The flyer also contained this petition calling on Whitmer to remove Loepp from the transition team. 

Many people were receptive to both this demand and the demand for Medicare for All, with the notable exception of many of the folks coming in and out of the BCBS office. Some of the protest organizers main talking points were that Whitmer’s appointment of Loepp shows she’s beholden to the interests of the health insurance industry over fixing healthcare for ordinary people, that BCBS pays Loepp $13 million while 600,000 folks in Michigan don’t have healthcare, and that even when folks do have care, it is inadequate and overpriced.

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