Aetna secretly funded opposition to health reform, protesters say

Protesters crashed Aetna's annual shareholders meeting in Philadelphia, accusing the insurer of publicly supporting healthcare reform while privately funneling money to its opponents, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The meeting had just gotten underway and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini was speaking to shareholders when protesters, who were shouting and carrying signs, burst into the room, according to the Wall Street Journal. The protest was organized by the Health Care for America Now coalition and involved members of Action United, Philadelphia Unemployment Project and Penn ACTION, the Hartford Courant reports.

The protesters based their accusations on reports that AHIP, of which Aetna is a member, provided the business lobbying group U.S. Chamber of Commerce with $86.2 million to oppose the health reform law, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In response to the protestors' allegations, Aetna spokesman Fred Laberge said the insurer has been a "constructive voice seeking to advance market-based healthcare reform." However, it also worked to educate the public about the "negative implications of a public option in healthcare reform" through testimony to Congress, meetings on Capitol Hill, and efforts of groups like AHIP and the Chamber of Commerce, reports the Courant.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion, they just are not entitled to disrupt a meeting," Bertolini said, or create an unsafe environment, the WSJ notes.

Philadelphia police said about 30 people protested. No arrests were made, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

To learn more:
- see the Philadelphia Inquirer article
- read the Hartford Courant story
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- check out the Bloomberg Businessweek piece