Labor-backed activists take their case for a state sponsored health insurance program to Cigna’s CEO

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Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant
·3 min read
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David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna Corp., joined four other industry leaders earlier this month in urging Gov. Ned Lamont to kill legislation that would create a new government-sponsored health insurance program.

On Monday, about 40 activists stood outside Cordani’s suburban home and delivered their response.

“David Cordani and his friends, the CEOs of the other major health insurance companies in Connecticut, wrote a letter to Gov. Lamont threatening to take their toys and go away,’' said Rev. Joshua Pawelek of the Unitarian Universalist Society in Manchester. “You know who’s really angry? People who don’t have insurance.”

The Connecticut legislature is currently weighing a bill that would create a public option for health insurance for small busineses and non-profit organizations. The meaure includes a $50 million tax on insurance carriers to provide subsidies to those who could otherwise not afford health insurance.

Led by the labor-backed Working Families Party, the protesters marched around a small circle in front of Cordani’s house on a wooded cul-de-sac in Simsbury. A band played and speakers used a bullhorn. It was unclear whether Cordani heard the commotion or if he was even home.

Gregory Spear, president of Value Office Furniture in West Hartford, said the cost of providing insurance to employees places enormous pressure on small businesses.

“I’m one of the 60,000 businesses in Connecticut that has less than 20 employees,’' Spear said. “These businesses, a lot of them, are living paycheck to paycheck just like their employees ... they don’t have enough [revenue] to make a meaningful contribution to their employee’s health care.”

Rev. Tony Lorenzen, a minister at Universalist churches in Meriden and Woodbury, said the current system that calls for private companies to provide health insurance is a “moral failure.”

“How is taking care of people’s health and well-being something anyone should make a profit from?’' Lorenzen asked. “It leads to this and why we’re here today.”

Throughout the protest, a man circled the crowd and made fun of the message, implying that the activists were simply looking for free stuff.

But Debra Dauphinais, the owner of Bicycles East in Glastonbury, said that’s a simplistic view. “We’re not looking for something for free,’' she said. The enormous profits earned by the health insurance industry during the pandemic constitute “a perversion of capitalism,’' she said.

Private insurance companies are a powerful force in Connecticut, providing as many as 50,000 direct and indirect jobs. The Connecticut Economic Resource Center estimates that the insurance industry contributes about $15 billion to the state’s economy.

In addition to Cordani, the letter to Lamont was signed by Gail K. Boudreaux, president and chief executive officer of Anthem; Thomas A. Croswell, CEO of the combined Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan; Dirk McMahon, president and chief operating officer of UnitedHealth Group; and Karen S. Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health Corp.

A spokeswoman for Cigna dismissed Monday’s protest as an empty gesture.

“Publicity stunts and smear tactics won’t distract Connecticut taxpayers from the truth: this proposal doesn’t mean more health care, it means higher taxes and a blow to our economy when Connecticut can afford it least,’' the company said in a statement emailed to reporters.

“We’ve been proud to call Connecticut home for more than 150 years. We care about the future of our state, and that is why we and many other Connecticut businesses oppose this proposal to expand a failing government-run health program that is already millions of dollars in the red,’' the company statement said.

The demonstration concluded with a “die-in” on the street, with protestors laying down and organizers outlining their figures in chalk.

Daniela Altimari can be reached at