Over 20,000 Democrats have a tough message for Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy: Reject the proposed megamerger between healthcare insurers Cigna and Anthem or resign from your position as chairman of the 2016 Democratic Platform Committee.
In a petition delivered Friday morning by Democracy for America, 21,543 Democrats from Connecticut and across the country expressed their concern about the merger, which has drawn increasing scrutiny following an International Business Times investigation into the ties between regulators in the state and the health insurance companies. Opponents say the merger, which would bring create the nation’s largest insurance providers, would hurt jobs and raise premiums across the country.
“Democratic leadership in Connecticut and around the country can no longer have it both ways. Our party deserves to know if our leaders, like Gov. Malloy, are going to stand the Wall Street interests who want to choke off competition in the health insurance industry or the working families who will be harmed by their pursuit of profit at any cost,” Jim Dean, the chairman of Democracy for America, said in a statement.
Dean said that his organization would fight for the issue at the upcoming Democratic National Convention if they are not promised action.
An IBT investigation last month found that Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner, Katharine Wade, is a former Cigna lobbyist with family ties to the company. Her husband currently works there while her mother and brother are former employees. Wade, who was nominated to her position by Malloy, has refused to recuse herself from the merger consideration. Connecticut is leading the merger review for states across the country.
Since the original IBT investigation, further discoveries have led to a formal ethics review by the Connecticut Ethics Commission into whether or not Wade’s ties to Cigna constitute an impermissible conflict of interest.
Aside from nominating Wade, Malloy is a longtime ally of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and served as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association at a time when both Cigna and Anthem ramped up their donations to the group significantly.
On the national level, the two companies have been spending big bucks lobbying the federal government to get the merger approved. In 2015, the year that the proposal was announced, the two companies spent a combined $13.6 million on federal lobbying. That’s 73 percent more cash spent lobbying the federal government than in 2009 when the Affordable Care Act was being debated.
A growing chorus is speaking out against the merger, including insurance regulators in California and Connecticut’s Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who along with six other U.S. senators wrote a letter last month calling on the Department of Justice to block the merger.
The proposed Cigna-Anthem merger and another deal, between Aetna and Humana, have drawn attention not only for the substance of the transactions but also the lack of transparency in the process. Activists say the public is unable to judge whether the merger review process is impartial, and is also in the dark about whether the deals would be beneficial for consumers — or just company shareholders.
"Gov. Malloy must choose between serving the insurance industry and leading the Democratic Party," says the petition. "It's hard to take the Democratic Party's stance on affordable health care seriously when prominent members of its leadership are using their elected offices to help the insurance industry profit at the expense of consumers."