Good health for you, but not for them.
That's the message Anthem -- one of America's largest for-profit health insurance corporations -- sends when Wayne DeVeydt, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, serves as a Board member of the decidedly pro-smoking -- in the developing world, at least -- U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
For the United States:
Anthem, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, wants its members to stop smoking.
It reimburses those who enroll in smoking-cessation programs or who buy products, like nicotine patches, intended to help people quit. It has even offered to arrange sessions with a coach who talks smokers through the process of quitting.
“Smoking is an unhealthy habit,” the insurer proclaimed in one of its publications. “It’s a smart business decision to urge your employees to quit smoking.”
And for people in other
countries with GDPs much smaller than those of the value of individual American corporations:
But Anthem’s executive vice president, Wayne S. DeVeydt, serves on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is engaged in a worldwide campaign to block antismoking laws. These include taxes on cigarettes in the Philippines, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs in Jamaica and Nepal, a plan to prohibit the display of cigarettes by retailers in Uruguay and restrictions on smoking in public spaces in Moldova.
Defending the U.S. tobacco industry is a major
priority for the U.S. Chamber, according to some excellent reporting from the New York Times
The U.S. Chamber’s work in support of the tobacco industry in recent years has emerged as a priority at the same time the industry has faced one of the most serious threats in its history. A global treaty, negotiated through the World Health Organization, mandates anti-smoking measures and also seeks to curb the influence of the tobacco industry in policy making. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, has been ratified by 179 countries; holdouts include Cuba, Haiti and the United States.
Facing a wave of new legislation around the world, the tobacco lobby has turned for help to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the weight of American business behind it. While the chamber’s global tobacco lobbying has been largely hidden from public view, its influence has been widely felt.
Letters, emails and other documents from foreign governments, the chamber’s affiliates and antismoking groups, which were reviewed by The New York Times, show how the chamber has embraced the challenge, undertaking a three-pronged strategy in its global campaign to advance the interests of the tobacco industry.
Even more than this being about protecting the profits of the vile tobacco industry, these U.S. Chamber efforts -- supported by Board members from Anthem and a number of U.S. hospital chains, including the Indiana University Health System -- are about protecting the power of corporations to resist any regulations they don't like from nation states. This is about global capitalism coming before the ability of national governments to protect the public health -- and social wellbeing -- of their own people. From the Times
And in Washington, Thomas J. Donohue, the chief executive of the chamber, has personally taken part in lobbying to defend the ability of the tobacco industry to sue under future international treaties, notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and several Pacific Rim nations.
So, next time your health insurer -- if it's Anthem, which for many Americans with Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans it is -- reminds you to quit smoking, laugh a little bit and know that even as the insurer tries to get you to quit here to avoid paying out for lung cancer treatment, that same "health care" corporation is joining forces with powerful corporate buddies to act in a way that will plague millions of young people in the world's poorest countries with ill health -- and death.
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