Who wasnt in San Diego for the annual conference of major insurers from June 3 to June 5 seemed to carry as much significance as who was at the confab.
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of Americas Health Insurance Plans and the face of the insurance lobby, was in San Diego for only a few hours on June 3, prior to opening sessions, before heading back to Washington for top-level congressional meetings on healthcare reform.
Dennis Rivera, chair of the Service Employees International Union, stayed behind in Washington instead of speaking as planned on June 5.
Its very scary that Dennis is not here, Nancy Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association, told the audience. We were supposed to be at that meeting too.
Nielsen later revised her remarks. Weve got our people at these meetings, she said.
Among conference-goers, the mood at the San Diego Convention Center was subdued. Attendance was down from about 3,500 people last year in San Francisco (a record high) to about 2,900 this year, according to AHIP.
Outside the conference center, the protesters were also fewer in numbers from last year, with just a smattering of picketers holding up signs advocating for a single-payer health system. Last year, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo flew to San Francisco to hold a press conference outside AHIPs annual meeting, and attendees were warned not to wear their conference name badges on city streets for fear of retaliation by protesters.
But in San Diego, insurance executives could be seen freely wearing their lanyards around their necks outside the convention center and in the nearby charming Gaslamp district. Two protesters managed to get onstage during a session of former governors Howard Dean, Jeb Bush and John Kitzhaber. Security quickly pulled the protesters offstage and escorted them out. There were no arrests, and within an hour just one lone police car was parked outside.