On March 29th, I attended this this public hearing on the proposed merger between Anthem and Cigna, which if approved, would make Anthem-Cigna the largest health insurer in both the United States and the State of California.
My opinion, based on the testimony, is that the merger should be rejected, but I want to write about the process, not the issue itself.
First of all, most of the people who attended the hearing were very professionally dressed (there were a few who were a bit more casual, including myself). Based on the (small) sample of people I talked to, most of them were representatives of Anthem or Cigna. I also talked briefly with someone (who, like myself, was more casually dressed) who was “from the investment community” (I am guessing that he works in investment research). During the bathroom breaks, people generally talked about what a drag it was they had to be at the hearing, about whether they would get out before rush hour. During the hearing, I also saw lots of people doing things with their smartphone rather than paying attention.
Since the California Department of Insurance expected a relatively large audience for this hearing, they prepared two overflow rooms for people who could not find space in the hearing room. I briefly looked at one of the overflow rooms, and it seems that people were more casually dressed, indicating that they may not be corporate representatives. Most people did find space in the main hearing room, so that still represented most of the people who showed up.
So, at this important hearing, which could help determine whether or not this corporate merger which would affect the cost and quality of health care in California is approved, and where anybody who shows up can make a public comment, most of the people who show up are bored corporate representatives.
See a problem here?
With the presidential campaigns going on in the USA, the media and most people who I talk to about politics act as if voting for president is the greatest influence we have on the political process. Should it be Trump, or Hillary, or Sanders, or Cruz?
I completely disagree that the presidential election is the most important thing, or even close to being the most important.
First of all, as a voter in California, my vote will not affect the outcome of the general election at all. But even if I did vote in a swing state, I can do a lot more to influence politics by showing up at these hearings than just by voting for president, or even governor or mayor. Though I did not make a public comment, the mere fact that I was there showed the California Insurance Commissioner (who was present and could see me in the audience) that people who were not corporate representatives gave a damn about this issue (by the way, Dave Jones behavior during the hearing was awesome, and I would vote for him if he runs for public office again).
Regardless of who wins the presidential election, these types of hearings, as well as other kinds of political events of its kind, will continue to happen, and the public will have a lot of leverage if it chooses to use it.