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6 arrested at Humana sit-in

By Carol Gentry
10/15/2009 © Health News Florida

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office arrested six protesters in a West Palm Beach office building this afternoon on charges of trespassing after they blocked the entrance to the Humana office and refused orders to leave. Floridians for Health Care, a group that supports a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health system, staged the sit-in.  

Spokeswoman Teri Barbera said four men and two women were brought in and were being processed at the jail. No injuries were reported.

The protesters did not have access to the Humana office, which conducts sales and administrative services, said Humana spokesman Mitch Lubitz. "They blocked our office door, and refused repeated requests by the property owner to go outside," he said.

In a phone interview Thursday morning before the demonstration, organizer and local attorney Rick Ford said he hoped to have at least half a dozen willing to risk arrest by refusing to leave the office, in addition to other protesters outside.

The West Palm sit-in was one of nine nationwide planned for today under the coordination of Healthcare-Now

A sit-in last week in Chicago at a Cigna office resulted in seven arrests. On Sept. 29 in New York, 17 people in “Medicare for All” T-shirts were arrested at an Aetna sit-in

Today’s action was aimed at Humana, Ford said, because the Louisville-based company has denied patients access to care ordered by physicians in one in five serious cases. Humana is the largest Medicare insurer in Florida.

”We’re demanding that Humana approve all doctor-requested care for Humana patients suffering from life-threatening conditions,” Ford said.

The claim is similar to those made at previous demonstrations against other insurers. As one organizer at the Aetna demonstration said – as captured in the YouTube video: “The death panels are the people paid every day to deny care to people. The more people they deny care to, the bigger bonuses they get.” 

Lubitz, the Humana spokesman, released a written statement pointing out that insurers actually support health reform (although not a single-payer plan akin to Canada's, which is what the demonstrators seek).

"Humana believes all Americans should have affordable, quality health care coverage,” Lubitz’s statement says. “Humana supports health reforms this year that guarantee coverage for everyone and don't require people with pre-existing conditions to pay higher premiums." 

--Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.