Activists protest for healthcare reform

September 22, 2009 Protestors held signs and chanted in front of the Blue Cross-Blue Shield building on the corner of Randolph Street and Columbus Drive around noon with the goal of getting the attention of large insurance companies they say profit at the expense of both its customers and the uninsured.

"We have to put pressure on the insurance industry and draw attention really to the unacceptable profits that they make at the expense of someone like myself and others," said Janice Raczynski, who works with the Illinois Main Street Alliance.

Protestors marched to the front of the Blue Cross-Blue Shield building, but security locked the doors and would not allow anyone to enter the building. Raczynski said the group was told they were on private property and if they did not leave, they would be arrested.

The protestors then marched to the side entrance where the doors were unlocked. When she asked for contact info to speak with a top management official, Raczynski said a receptionist told her they do not give out that information due to security reasons.

Ryan Canney, an organizer with activist groups USAction and Citizen Action Illinois, said group members attended the demonstration to raise the attention of people in the Chicago area about healthcare reform.

"Increasingly, as we look at the healthcare debate, what's been missing thus far is the focus on the insurance industry and making sure they are front and center of this debate because they're the part of the problem," Canney said. "Right now we're seeing premiums go up year after year with no end in sight. That's what reform is about, reigning in the insurance industry."

Demonstrators held signs such as "The System is Killing Us." Racynski held a makeshift ball and chain which read "CEO Salaries."

Several protestors complained that top executives at insurance companies make large salaries while denying coverage to some of its customers.

"They are profiting from our misery," said Sara Skonlik, an Evanston resident and professor at Chicago State University. "I don't want to pad the pockets."

"What does any man, any CEO need $10 million a year? How many homes can you buy?" Racynski said.

Midge Hough, a former executive recruiter, attended the protest holding a sign with a picture of her daughter-in-law that read "She could not wait!" Hough said her 24-year-old daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and her unborn baby died in a hospital three and a half weeks ago due to poor medical care because she was uninsured.

"I want everyone to know this can happen to your family," Hough said. "It's wrong that the richest country in the world does not provide its people with healthcare. It's wrong."

Canney said this demonstration coincided with others around the country today, and that group organizers are possibly planning another rally next week in front of another insurance company in the area. called Blue Cross-Blue Shield, but did not have a comment by press time.

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