How Insurers Are Hiding Obamacare Benefits From Customers

From Talking Points Memo

Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they’d identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she’d be covered.

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that’s not what she found. Instead, she’d be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out.
Continue Reading

Proposal Challenges TIAA-CREF on For-Profit Health Insurance

By Robert Kropp for Social Funds

Advocacy groups urge the pension fund to divest its holdings in private health insurance companies, arguing that the industry has a well-documented history of unethical behavior and abuses.

Should sustainable institutional investors hold the stocks of private health insurance companies in their portfolios?

It’s a question that advocates for a single-payer healthcare system is asking the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), the financial services organization and one of the nation’s largest pension funds. A signatory to the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), TIAA-CREF states in its investment philosophy that it seeks “to invest in areas that affect social change and environmental stewardship while also producing competitive financial returns.”
Continue Reading

TIAA-CREF shareholders meeting hears call to divest from ‘unethical’ private health insurers

Shareholder’s comments provoke response from company’s president

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Having suffered an earlier rejection by the leadership of TIAA-CREF of a shareholders resolution calling on the huge, nonprofit investment company to divest its funds from private health insurance firms because of the latter’s “unethical behavior,” a spokesperson for the divestment group took the microphone at the organization’s annual meeting Tuesday and urged just such a course of action.

Shareholder Sandra Fox, speaking on behalf of herself and others who have appealed to TIAA-CREF to divest its holdings in WellPoint and other giant health insurers, said such firms are not managed in an “exemplary and ethical manner” – a criterion for inclusion in the company’s portfolio – and therefore should be scrapped.

Going into to the meeting, Fox said: “The practices of these companies are anything but socially responsible. They make money by denying coverage, raising premiums, and increasing co-pays and deductibles, deterring patients from seeking care. Their everyday operations result in high overhead expenses, spiraling health care costs, worsening health, premature loss of life, and bankruptcy of countless Americans.”
Continue Reading

Demonstration at TIAA-CREF Shareholder Meeting in Charlotte, NC

Mark your calendar for Tuesday, July 16th, 2013. All are welcome to join us demonstrating at the TIAA CREF shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC (8500 Andrew Carnegie Blvd) at 1pm.

We will be distributing this leaflet (.doc).

You can download the rejected shareholder resolution (.doc) that we submitted as well.

The leaflet reads:





TIAA-CREF AND MSCI (their vendor for rating companies) have received reams of this evidence from us during our so-called “dialogue,” yet these companies continue to receive high enough “scores” to be included in the fund. MSCI has not yet responded to our April request for the score on Wellpoint, which owns Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, after we sent them news from the LA TIMES of a jury returning a damage award of $3.8 million against the insurer. This is not unusual–each of the insurance giants CREF includes in its Social Choice Fund has had a record of highly unethical and harmful behavior.

You call your method of inclusion of companies for Social Choice “best in class.” We call it a sham and a shame.

You claimed the shareholder proposal to divest from health insurance companies would “interfere with ordinary business.”

If ordinary business is hypocritical to the stated objectives of a socially responsible fund, we say it’s time to interfere with ordinary business.

DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN FOR HEALTH CARE investigates holdings by TIAA-CREF and urges divestment from health insurance companies

By Sandra Fox

Healthcare-NOW, the national grassroots organization for single-payer healthcare, together with Physicians for a National Health Program, began a committee in 2010 to look at divestment from for-profit health insurance companies. We called ourselves the Divestment Campaign for Health Care.

As a member of the committee and a participant in TIAA-CREF funds, the nation’s largest pension fund that offers retirement options to academic (including medical centers) and religious organizations, I decided to investigate their holdings in the “socially responsible” stock option called “CREF-Social Choice.” As a stakeholder, I wanted to make sure that health insurance companies were not included in this fund.

Upon reviewing the 2010 Audited Schedules of Investments for the fund, I was very disturbed to discover that CREF-Social Choice included holdings in Aetna, CIGNA, Coventry Health Care, Humana, and WellPoint.

According to their Summary Prospectus the five “social criteria” TIAA-CREF reports using to decide on their socially responsible holdings include:

1) Strong stewards of the environment;
2) devoted to serving local communities where they operate and to human rights and philanthropy;
3) committed to higher labor standards for their own employees and those in the supply chain;
4) dedicated to producing high-quality and safe products; and
5) managed in an exemplary and ethical manner.

I understood from reading the Prospectus that companies are screened and ranked by an outside vendor, namely MSCI Inc, and that TIAA-CREF invests in companies that “meet or exceed the screening criteria…,” though “…concerns in one area do not automatically eliminate a company from potential inclusion in the …Fund.”

I further understood from the Prospectus, that “Even if an investment is not excluded by MSCI’s criteria, Advisors has the option of excluding the investment if it decides the investment is inappropriate, though it is expected that Advisors will normally apply MSCI’s screening results.”

Thus began my inquiry directly with TIAA-CREF headquarters in NYC.
Continue Reading

Health Care Workers, Patients Lead Fight for Divestment from Corrupt Private Health Insurance Industry: Presbyterian Church and TIAA-CREF Hear Their Call

By Katie Robbins

In the midst of a fierce debate on the national level around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, the Divestment Campaign for Health Care made its official debut. Its stated mission: “to expose how the health insurance industry puts the need for profit above the needs of patients and to escalate public support for total removal of the private health insurance companies from our nation’s health care.”

Leading advocacy organizations dedicated to single-payer health care are committed to pursuing a divestment campaign from private health insurance companies in order to transform the treatment of health care as a commodity into a basic human right for all people in the U.S.

“We are responsible for our investments, and particularly as health care workers and patients, we see the immorality of the private health insurance companies as they deny payment for care in order to create huge profits for shareholders. Those who stand for a just and equitable health care system must recognize the corrupting force of the private health insurance industry on our political process that costs tens of thousands of lives every year in addition to being a huge financial drain,” states Dr. Rob Stone, M.D.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) became the first major institution to take steps towards divestment from private health insurance.  On July 7th, the church’s national assembly unanimously passed a resolution stating they will “evaluate the variance between church principles of universal access and affordability on the one hand and corporate objectives on the other. It will also assess the likelihood of significant change in corporate behavior.”

The resolution passed after moving testimony was delivered by Rev. Dr. Johanna W.H. van Wijk-Bos, the widow of the original author of the resolution, Rev. A. David Bos who passed away from a sudden case of pneumonia last year, stating before the committee:

“As he lay in the hospital, struggling with the oxygen mask provided to give his lungs the air they needed, he spoke haltingly what would be his last words on this earth: ‘How much will this cost?’  He died six days later. Three weeks after his death a representative from our health insurance company informed me in a telephone call that they rejected the claim to pay for my husband’s hospitalization and medical costs because of a ‘pre-existing condition.’”

Continue Reading

Presbyterian Church (USA) takes step toward divestment from for-profit health insurance companies

July 7th, 2012 – Today the Presbyterian Church (USA) took a step toward divestment from for-profit health insurance companies in the US by instructing the appropriate committee of the General Assembly to begin a process of information gathering. The Mission Through Responsible Investing Committee (MRTI) is instructed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to request information and explanations of health insurance companies. This information will focus especially on the insurers’ practices in regard to state and federal lobbying expenditures and political campaign contributions, government subsidies and profit margins, denials of claims, and top executives’ compensation packages. Other directives include a conversation with the Board of Pensions, the overseeing body that works with the health care provider, to ensure that the church’s health plan submits to the same standards that it asks of other insurers. Based on its analysis MRTI will evaluate the variance between church principles of universal access and affordability on the one hand and corporate objectives on the other. It will also assess the likelihood of significant change in corporate behavior.

In addition, the committee is to recommend measures to the appropriate Council of the church, including possible divestment from the health insurance companies, measures that will strengthen the integrity of the church’s practice. The relevant committees and councils are requested to report on their action to the General Assemblies of 2014 and 2016, with an eye to guiding individual Presbyterians, congregations and mid-councils, in relation to their own investment holdings in this major part of the economy.

Finally, all official bodies are encouraged to continue to support cost-effective health coverage for all through the single payer (or expanded Medicare) model common elsewhere in the developed world, and to support making health care affordable and transparent.
The overture for this step originated with the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, was joined by the Presbyteries of Albany, New York City, Long Island and West Jersey, and was approved overwhelmingly by the Committee on Health Issues of the General Assembly on July 3, 2012.

Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos
Dora Pierce Professor of Bible – Louisville Presbyterian Seminary
Minister member of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery


21-01On Instructing MRTI to Study and Report Corporate Practices of Health Insurance Companies and Possible Divestment of Same—From the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky.
Source:Presbytery Sponsor:
Mid-Kentucky Presbytery

On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended

Voice Vote
Final Text:
In response to Item 21-01, that the 220th General Assembly (2012) approve the following alternate recommendation:

“1. The MRTI Committee is instructed to request information and explanations of health insurance company policy and practice on: state and federal lobbying expenditures and political/campaign contributions, government subsidies and profit margins related to provisions of the healthcare ‘reform’ legislation, aggregate data on increases in premiums and deductibles over the past ten years, categories and percentages of claims denied, and percentages of profits used in compensating top executives in comparison with return to shareholders.
“2. The MRTI Committee is instructed to be in conversation with the PC(USA) Board of Pensions to ensure the PC(USA) health plan submits to the same standards that PC(USA), through MRTI, asks of other insurers.

“3. Based on this corporate engagement and analysis, a summary of which shall be posted, MRTI is asked to evaluate the variance between church principles of universal access and affordability and corporate objectives, to assess the likelihood of significant change in corporate behavior, and to recommend to the GAMC and General Assembly measures, including possible divestment, that would strengthen the integrity of the church’s practice.
“4. The GAMC, the Presbyterian Foundation, and the Board of Pensions, in turn, are requested to report on their actions (or request guidance) to the 221st and 222nd General Assembly (2014) and (2016), with an eye to guiding individual Presbyterians, congregations, and mid councils in relation to their own investment holdings in this major part of the economy.

“5. The Office of Public Witness and other Presbyterian bodies are encouraged to continue to support cost-effective health coverage for all through the single payer (or expanded Medicare) model common elsewhere in the developed world, and, to support making health care affordable and transparent.”


Time to divest from insurance companies?

From Alice Faryna M.D., Columbus, OH

After hearing someone say that health care reform is the civil rights issue of this decade, I retrieved the 1966 speech on civil disobedience by Dr. Martin Luther King. The two strategies described were marches and boycotts. His marches were successful because large target populations could be found in cities like Chicago and Atlanta , and quickly reached through churches. The single-payer movement has not been able to find such concentrated populations. Our rallies in D.C. and the Mad Docs tour in 2009 did not produce numbers of sufficient size to command attention. Let’s consider boycotts.

Dr. King said, “There is nothing quite so effective as refusal to cooperate economically with the forces and institutions which perpetuate evil in our communities.” Under the leadership of SCLC, refusing to buy products from companies which do not hire Negroes (sic), resulted in an increase of income in that community by more than $2 million annually.

Another example is the boycott organized by the Committee of African Organizations (CAO) with support from South Africa ’s Liberal Party in 1959. Additional support grew in British organizations and international labor movements. South African products came off the shelves. Eventually apartheid ended.

Paul Krugman recently commented on the sharp increase in premiums announced by WellPoint in their California individual market. WellPoint is not the villain. The current system invites a death spiral for the insurance industry which relies on large a large pool containing healthy clients to keep costs down. In the current economy, cash-strapped workers drop coverage resulting in a smaller, sicker pool. Legislation which bans discriminatory practices will further increase premiums and hasten the death spiral.

I suggest that PNHP and other organizations support disinvestment in companies which are on an unsustainable path. A precedent exists for pension fund managers to do this: In 2002, CALPERS embarked on a series of “socially responsible” investment boycotts starting with Asian companies which violated guidelines on human rights and labor standards. Also targeted were companies like Disney, Safeway, the New York Stock Exchange, and health maintenance organizations.

We could begin with encouraging PNHP members to purge their personal portfolios of health insurance companies; I have already done so. I intend to approach the STRS board with a request to divest from companies likely to see a sharp stock price reduction. Money talks.

Kentucky Presbyterian group urges scrutiny of big health insurers, with eye to possible divestment

By Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted at its regular stated meeting, held in Glasgow, Ky., to send an overture to its 220th General Assembly. The overture requests of the General Assembly to instruct the committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to report on the corporate practices of Cigna, Aetna, Humana, WellPoint, and UnitedHealthcare insurance companies to the General Assembly Mission Council.

In addition, the overture asks the General Assembly Mission Council to act on this information and, as it deems appropriate, implement divestment procedures, as well as encourage individual Presbyterians and congregations to divest of holdings in the said companies; and, in view of the urgency of the ongoing health care crisis, to take action within six months of the adoption of the recommendation; and to report to the 221st General Assembly (2014) on divestment action.

The overture was authored primarily by the Rev. A. David Bos, who died early in February of 2011. It was then unanimously endorsed by the session of Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., and brought before the Presbytery by the Church Administration committee with its endorsement. The overture was supported also by the session of Buechel Presbyterian Church.

Following supportive comments by the Rev. Mark Baridon, one of the ministers of Central Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Dr. Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, widow of David Bos, one opposing statement, and supportive remarks from the Rev. Nancy Troy, of Briargate Presbyterian Church, the moderator put the question to the vote. The great majority of the Presbytery voted in favor.

After the vote took place, the Rev. Adam Fischer of Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church placed the name of Johanna Bos in nomination to serve as Overture Advocate at the meeting of the General Assembly. This motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

The Overture Advocate is charged with taking the overture to the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), to take place in early July 2012, in Pittsburgh, Pa., and presenting it to the appropriate committee, which will take it to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.

It is the hope of those who have advocated for this cause in our Presbytery that other Presbyteries of the Church will join Mid-Kentucky and pass the Overture, so the endorsement may come to the General Assembly from as large a number of Presbyteries as possible.

Johanna W.H.van Wijk-Bos is Teaching Elder member of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and Overture Advocate to the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the overture on practices of the health care industry in the U.S. and on divestment from holdings in said industry.

Investors with a Conscience Should Divest from Health Insurance Companies

By Rob Stone for

I was the doctor on duty one night in August when the ambulance rushed a man into our Midwestern hospital ER. As I walked into the room, the scene was right out of TV. A nurse was trying to start an IV. Someone was running an EKG. A student had just put oxygen in the patient’s nose. The room seemed crowded. The paramedics were sweating and slightly out of breath.

Continue Reading