Health Inc.

Protesters, Including 'Vampire Squid,' Picket Health Insurers' Confab

Never underestimate the power of a lovely spring day in the nation's capital to fuel a vigorous political demonstration.

A 'vampire squid' marches outside a meeting of insurance executives.

hide captionAn unidentified demonstrator presses the case for health overhaul in Washington's Dupont Circle.

Courtesy of Health Care for America Now/Flickr

Today, health care activists marched on the Ritz-Carlton hotel, where the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans is meeting. The demonstration featured some famous people, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who has come around from wanting to scrap the Senate-passed bill and start over.

"This bill has already passed the Senate by a large majority," Dean told the crowd gathered at D.C.'s Dupont Circle. "This bill has passed the House. We need a final vote. The president is right. The American people deserve a final vote."

The crowd also included less famous people like Melanie Collins, a nurse and daycare provider who traveled to Washington from Falmouth, Maine, for the rally. "I think the insurance companies are directly involved in the problem," she said. "I don't know how long I'll be able to afford my own insurance."

And then there was the guy dressed up as what looked to me like, well, a Giant Red Squid of Death. The man in a black bodysuit with a red paper mache monster growing from his shoulders called it "a vampire squid." His get-up, he said, was meant to dramatize the profit motive of publicly traded health insurers. Gotcha. Or hear him explain it here:

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Meanwhile, inside the hotel, those attending the meeting couldn't even hear the demonstrators chanting: "What do we want? Health care. When do we want it? Now." They also couldn't see the wanted posters depicting insurance executives or chalked outlines depicting the bodies of the uninsured on the street.

"We respect their right to have their voices heard," AHIP Spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said in an interview. And what about President Obama's latest push to get an overhaul passed by demonizing health insurers?

"This is politics as usual," he said with a shrug. "No amount of vilification is going to get more people covered. It's not going to bring down costs. We support health care reform, but the current legislation needs to do far more to control the rapid increase in the underlying costs of medical care...."

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