Eyebrows Raised Over Former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe Appearance as Paid Speaker at Health Insurance Convention in San Francisco Next Week4 min read

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This is personal.

I was quite surprised when I learned that Terry McAuliffe was going to appear at a major convention of health insurance corporations in San Francisco on June 19.

After all, how could the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee show up as a guest of health insurance executives — much less accept any money for his appearance at the AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) convention? This appearance seems inappropriate at best, especially after Barack Obama and Howard Dean courageously directed the Democratic National Committee last week to reject contributions from lobbyists, including the health insurance industry.

And now it’s personal. My sister, who suffers from severe and rapidly deteriorating hearing loss, just told me that she has been denied useful health care coverage. Again. Why? Because her hearing problems have been diagnosed as a “pre-existing condition,” precluding her from receiving cochlear implants so she can hear again.

The last I checked, being able to hear is not “optional” medical care. Unfortunately, my sister is one of over 100 million Americans who either have no health insurance coverage or are underinsured. My entire family worries about her, but the system is designed by these health insurance executives to keep her out — not to help her.

I know Terry McAuliffe. When I was the California chair of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2003-04, I interacted with Terry on a number of occasions. While we have differences of opinion from time to time, I think he might listen if enough people appeal to him and the morals and values the Democratic Party is supposed to represent.

So, I wrote a letter to Terry McAuliffe. The simple message: “Just don’t do it, Terry. Don’t go to the AHIP convention and please don’t accept a speaking fee.”

Here’s an excerpt from my letter to Terry:

“Did you know that Assurant Health — listed as the sole sponsor of your joint AHIP speaking appearance with former Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett — was just fined $3 million by the state of Connecticut for illegally denying care to hundreds of patients? That is just one example of how the health insurance racket in America has a death grip on our health care system. Using nearly unlimited resources from our monthly premium payments, it has single-handedly blocked every health care reform proposal in recent years, including “Medicare for All” or single-payer health care.

“No Democrat, least of all the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, should support these corporations by appearing on their stage, and no progressive should allow himself to be paid in blood money “earned” by withholding treatment from sick patients.”

I know that’s strong language. But it’s the truth.

You know who else will be at this convention, lending their “legitimacy” to this cabal of health insurance executives? Bill Frist, the former Republican Senate Majority Leader. And Tommy Thompson, President Bush’s former Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Of course, there’s no point in asking Dr. Frist and Mr. Thompson not to show up, given that they oppose health care reforms that would restrict the role of, or remove, the insurance industry from the management and delivery of health care. But I hope that Terry McAuliffe decides, on behalf of my sister and everyone else who suffers from the callous policies of greedy insurance companies, to stay away from the AHIP convention.

If you agree, please forward this message to your friends now. We don’t have much time to collect thousands of signatures to remind Terry of the first rule of health care: “first, do no harm.”

Thanks, again, for doing everything in your power to make 2008 a new era for progressive politics in California.

It’s time to take a stand for universal health care and against health insurance corporations. That’s why thousands of Californians will be protesting outside the AHIP convention at Moscone Center in San Francisco, starting at noon on June 19.

Led by our friends at the California Nurses Association, a strong coalition of health care organizations and reformers will gather outside the convention, rallying to support H.R. 767 and S.B. 840 — federal and state bills supporting single-player health care. To find out more about this rally, as well as sign my letter to Terry McAuliffe, please click here.

Rick Jacobs is the founder and chair of the Courage Campaign. He chaired the presidential campaign of Howard Dean in California and serves as Senior Advisor to Democracy for America. The Courage Campaign is an online organizing network empowering nearly 100,000 members to make this a new era for progressive politics in California. In 2008, the Courage Campaign will work with grassroots and netroots activists to increase California’s importance in the race for the White House, hold our elected officials accountable, and defeat the November initiative that would ban marriage equality.

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