Blue Cross Pressures Employees to Donate to Opponent of Single-Payer Candidates

Democratic candidate for the Michigan gubernatorial race Abdul El-Sayed speaks at a TED Talk on February 16, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo: TEDxUofM Conference)Abdul El-Sayed, a proponent of single-payer health care who is running for the governor’s office in Michigan, speaks at a TED Talk in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo: TEDxUofM Conference)

This piece is part of Fighting for Our Lives: The Movement for Medicare for All, a Truthout original series.

Often, the structural problems that keep Democrats from embracing Medicare for All are hidden beneath the political surface. This week, however, Democratic candidate for governor in Michigan Gretchen Whitmer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offered no such subtlety.  Their very public collaboration is a case study in how industry money influences campaigns and elections.

Whitmer does not support single-payer health care. She is, however, being challenged by two candidates who do: Abdul El-Sayed, and Shri Thanedar. This appears to have Blue Cross (the state’s largest insurer) nervous enough to request that its 8,100 employees support Whitmer for Governor. In a letter signed by Blue Cross executives but paid for by the Whitmer campaign, Blue Cross employees were invited to a fundraiser on March 7 and were given suggested donation amounts based on job title. Significantly, the candidate’s father, Richard Whitmer, was president of Blue Cross of Michigan for 18 years and even has a building named after him on Blue Cross’s campus.

2018 0223bcbs2Screen shot of letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan asking employees to donate to a candidate. (Image: Splinter News)

“This is a perfect example of how corporate politicians hold Democrats back, even as other party leaders, like Senators Cory Booker and [Kristen] Gillibrand, are calling for Medicare for All and no corporate money corrupting our politics,” said Adam Joseph, communications director for the El-Sayed campaign, in an interview with Truthout. He is referencing the two senators’ separate announcements from last week that they would reject corporate Pac money.

Indeed, in recent years progressives have become far more aware…

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