Seven protestors lay in the lobby Wednesday morning to represent the 700,000 Americans whose medical claims are denied by their private insurers each day
CHICAGO – Activists from The People’s Lobby, ONE Northside, and Jane Addams Senior Caucus surreptitiously mounted an audacious demonstration on Wednesday at the downtown offices of BlueCross BlueShield IL (BCBSIL), staging a “die-in” in the lobby as a protest of the company’s policy of denying claims to its members. Coming up from the underground Pedway, seven demonstrators fell to the floor to represent the 700,000 Americans whose lives are impacted or lost due to lack of access to medical care from denied medical claims each day. The action was part of a coordinated Day of Action organized by Care Over Cost, with 15 events happening nationally targeting private insurers from Denver to Maine.
The demonstrators were joined outside by over fifty grassroots leaders, healthcare justice advocates, and disability rights activists. State elected officials Senator Mike Simmons (7th District) and Representative Lindsey LaPointe (19th District) spoke at a rally outside the BCBSIL building after the protestors were forced outside by security.
“It’s not too much to ask, in a developed democracy, that people live long, healthy, prosperous lives,” said Senator Simmons. “Those 700,00 denied claims– that’s someone who needs insulin, someone who has an untreated liver condition. That’s somebody’s aunt, somebody’s mom.”
Other speakers emphasized the high stakes of claim denials by sharing their own stories. Michael Grice, a grassroots healthcare leader who lives with a disability, described how insurance denials impacted him: “It took me over four years to get the wheelchair I’m sitting in now,” Michael said. “I’m tired of insurance companies putting profit over people. They always do it for people with disabilities and senior citizens. I’m fed up with this garbage.”
The organizers also delivered a letter of demands addressed to Health Care Services Corporation, BCBSIL’s parent corporation. Among their demands, they requested an in-person meeting with the corporation to discuss their claims denial policies in detail. Vice President of Corporate Communications for HCSC Dana Holmes met the activists in the lobby to receive their demands and agreed to this meeting, to be held at a future date.
“Increasingly, the major barrier to people receiving care is not lack of health insurance, but the private health insurance corporations themselves,” stated the joint organizers of Wednesday’s action. Private insurance companies deny well over 248 million claim or pre-authorization requests annually. In prior-authorization denials, a private insurer refuses to pay for care a medical professional has ordered, resulting in people not receiving required medicine, surgeries or other necessary care. In a claim denial, someone has received care ordered by a medical professional but their private insurer won’t pay the bill, leaving people with medical debt. An independent investigation found that BCBSIL denied 1.4 million in-network medical claims in 2021.
Additional photos of the direct action are available here. A video of the event is available here. Additional video is available on request.
Photos by Deana Rutherford
ONE Northside, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, and The People’s Lobby are members of People’s Action’s Care Over Cost campaign that organizes people across the country to appeal and overturn insurance claim denials from private health insurers and to get people the care they need.