Szakos’ a Free Man

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

originally posted by Will Urquhart at Sum of Change

A while back, we covered a somewhat unique story. Joe Szako, the Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project, had been arrested while attempting to contact Anthem Insurance during a demonstration at their headquarters. We were there when Mr. Szako appeared in court, Tuesday September 22nd 2009, in Henrico, VA. You can read more about the arrest and watch video footage of the arrest here.

At the end of November, the case ended with Mr. Szako a free man, for the most part. He will have to stay out of trouble for six months (and yes, that includes any visits to Anthem’s headquarters):

Trespassing charges against Virginia Organizing Project Executive Director Joe Szakos are to be dismissed after six months with no incident and no visits to Anthem’s property.

Evidence showed that customers are permitted in the main entrance where Szakos attempted to enter Anthem’s Richmond headquarters in July. Evidence also showed that Szakos was connected by cell phone at the time of arrest-waiting for an Anthem representative-following the instructions Anthem security had given him. Judge Neil Steverson chose not to convict Szakos for trespassing on his own insurance company’s property.

After the trial, Mr. Szakos released this statement:

I am relieved that Judge Steverson recognized that I was well within my rights to visit my own insurance company and ask them a question. I look forward to the official dismissal of these charges in six months so that we can all move on.  Until that six months is up, I am barred from visiting Anthem’s property. This is not a problem since they rarely listen to their customers concerns anyway. Being officially barred is perhaps a more formal exemplification of Anthem’s existing customer service policy: ‘Don’t ask questions, just pay your bill.’

Anthem has succeeded in wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars on this charade. Anthem has used the time and resources of the Henrico County Police to arrest a paying customer who visited their building during normal business hours. Today, an hour of the court’s time was spent providing no real benefit to the County.  Instead, the court’s time was spent deliberating on whether or not it is legal for a paying customer to walk up to their own health insurance company and ask to speak to a live person.  It is absolutely absurd that this has gone this far.

Virginians are already paying outrageous health insurance premiums through Anthem. They should not be forced to pay for the court costs involved with Anthem’s crackdown on customers who question their business practices. I think that Anthem should apologize to the people of Henrico County for making them foot the bill for this nonsense. And then Anthem should apologize to the Virginia Organizing Project for taking up our time and resources with this trial.

The private health insurance industry has given us a health care system where customers have to deal with skyrocketing premiums, denied claims, and even trespassing charges for asking to speak to a representative in person.  I am glad that Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb voted Saturday to begin debate on health care legislation that will force insurance companies like Anthem to be competitive and improve their service. We all deserve better than this.

So, in conclusion, it apparently is not illegal to visit your health insurance company and try to ask them a question. Now if only we could visit our insurance company and expect some type of health care too. Yes, I am a dreamer.


    • BobbyK on December 15, 2009 at 07:50

    Now watch for more insurance companies to offshore their offices to where it is illegal!

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