Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Los Angeles Times: SEIU Is in Bed with Giant Insurance Company in California

An article in the Los Angeles Times is shining more light on the cozy relationship between SEIU and the giant corporations that dominate California’s healthcare industry.

In earlier reports, Tasty described the infamous “partnership” between SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan and the California Hospital Association (CHA), which is the Chamber of Commerce for the state’s multi-billion-dollar hospital corporations. In June, Regan teamed up with the CHA’s CEO, Duane Dauner, to wage a secret attack designed to roll back California’s nurse-to-patient staffing laws.

So what’s the latest?

According to the LA Times, a senior executive from Blue Shield is working as a lobbyist for SEIU’s top officials in California!  Blue Shield is one of the largest health insurance companies in California and currently has $10 billion in annual revenues and 1.3 million patients. Here’s an excerpt from the LA Times:

[Dave] Low isn't the only person with union ties pulling double duty for Blue Shield. One of the insurance company's senior executives also works as a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 300,000 government workers statewide.

So who is the Blue Shield “senior executive” and how much is SEIU paying him?

During the past 18 months, SEIU paid $240,000 to Mark Weideman, the Vice President of Government Affairs at Blue Shield, according to records from California's Secretary of State. The payments were reportedly arranged by SEIU's Dave Kieffer, the Executive Director of the SEIU California State Council.

The Times cites various experts who describe their ethical concerns about SEIU’s cozy relationship with Blue Shield:

Experts say those close ties between Blue Shield and key labor unions may give the nonprofit company undue influence over multimillion-dollar insurance contracts for public employees. It's common in California for a joint panel of labor and management officials to pick the winning insurance bidders and set many of the terms.

"This raises red flags about conflicts of interest and self-dealing," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies public corruption. "It really starts to feel offensive when the public money at stake is so huge."

Another expert describes his concerns about possible bid-rigging by SEIU and Blue Shield:

….some experts expressed concern that Blue Shield's chief lobbyist is allowed to simultaneously represent the SEIU, a big union that participates in health-benefit decisions involving public employees and insurers.

"The question is, does Blue Shield have access to insider information through these unions?" said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "It doesn't look right."

Or, as one reader noted in an online comment that’s posted on the LA Times website:

Someone should say to them, in the words that every worker will recognize, "Which side are you on?"