You remember Joe Szakos, right? He’s the courageous head of the Virginia Organizing Project, our affiliate in VA. He’s also an Anthem Blue Cross customer, and his rates just increased 14%. The same week, he received an email from Blue Cross bashing a public health insurance option.

The fact that Blue Cross was spending money that it was extorting from Szakos to help kill reform was infuriating. Szakos did something about it:

Szakos immediately had some questions for Anthem. Chief among them, why is Anthem using its resources to lobby against health care reform with a public health insurance option while at the same time increasing rates by 14.1%?

Szakos, along with three other Virginia Organizing Project board members, went down to Anthem’s offices in Richmond, VA to ask. He left in handcuffs. Watch the video:


Szakos, a customer, couldn’t get an answer from Anthem. There was no justification for raising rates on one hand, and spending money lobbying against health care reform on the other. And instead of trying to offer Szakos an explanation, they had him arrested.

Szakos’ trial began on Monday, and the judge decided to dismiss all charges.

From Virginia Organizing Project’s press release:

Evidence showed that customers are permitted in the main entrance where Szakos attempted to enter Anthem’s Richmond headquarters in July. Evidence also showed that Szakos was connected by cell phone at the time of arrest-waiting for an Anthem representative-following the instructions Anthem security had given him. Judge Neil Steverson chose not to convict Szakos for trespassing on his own insurance company’s property.

Of course, Anthem still succeeded in wasting taxpayer money going ahead with this silly trial. And they’re still spending money opposing health reform. But we know one thing; if you’re a customer, you can go down to your health insurance company and ask them about your rate increases and their lobbying practices. Perhaps more people should.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

Writer, musician, activist. Currently consulting for Bill Halter for U.S. Senate and a fellow at the New Organizing Institute.