Published in Massachusetts in the Needham Times, Belmont Citizen-Herald, Watertown Tab and Press, and elsewhere.

Blue Cross has unhealthful relationship with ‘No Place for Hate’

March 24, 2008

By David Boyajian

With health insurance now compulsory in Massachusetts, and premiums high enough to cause altitude sickness, it’s inexcusable that the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is still misusing its subscribers’ money by sponsoring the alleged anti-bias program known as “No Place for Hate.”

Eleven municipalities — Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Lexington, Medford, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Northampton, Watertown and Westwood — recently gave their NPFH program the boot. They discovered that its creator and sponsor, the Anti-Defamation League, denies the factuality of the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey and doesn’t want America to recognize that genocide. And they understood that NPFH — the name is a federally registered ADL trademark — was violating its own human rights principles by being affiliated with a genocide-denying organization.
The ADL has hypocritically opposed acknowledgment of the Armenian holocaust to win political points with Turkey, which has close relations with Israel. In actuality, the ADL is a highly controversial, ethnic-specific organization known to be focused on political lobbying, not universal human rights.
So why hasn’t Blue Cross Blue Shield followed the lead of towns that have severed ties to NPFH?
Here’s what we know. Several years back, Peter Meade, the recently retired Blue Cross Blue Shield vice president, “was instrumental in mobilizing Blue Cross” to become the state’s first official NPFH corporation. And Meade sits — amazing coincidence No. 1 — on the board of the New England ADL and received its Chairperson’s Award.
Meade also chairs the Greenway Conservancy, which will oversee future upkeep of Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. For some strange reason — amazing coincidence No. 2 — he opposes the Greenway’s proposed Armenian Heritage Park, which might include a small plaque that remembers the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
It’s an obvious conflict of interest for a member of the genocide-denying ADL to sit in judgment of anything Armenian. But so far the well-connected Meade has gotten away with it, aided by the Boston Globe, which won’t report that conflict of interest.
And here’s amazing coincidence No. 3: Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Boston headquarters is hosting this year’s board meetings of the Greenway Conservancy.
How much has Blue Cross Blue Shield been spending on NPFH programs? It won’t give me a figure, and I can guess why. Blue Cross Blue Shield was recently in the spotlight for the controversial $16.4 million retirement package it lavished on ex-Chairman William Van Faasen.
Interestingly, Van Faasen declared in 2001 that Blue Cross Blue Shield was “pleased [to] assist the ADL” with NPFH. Which brings us to amazing coincidence No. 4: Van Faasen received the ADL’s coveted Maimonides award.
Another Blue Cross Blue Shield executive, Vice President Fredi Shonkoff, “helped spearhead” the company’s designation as NPFH. How might that have happened? Amazing coincidence No. 5: Shonkoff sat on the ADL’s board, along with Peter Meade.
Are you getting the feeling that the ADL and its board members and friends have been throwing their weight around inside Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Greenway Conservancy and the state’s NPFH municipalities?
Think of the powerful ADL as the hub of an enormous wheel with these spokes: NPFH — Blue Cross Blue Shield — Shonkoff — Van Faasen — Meade — the Greenway Conservancy — opposition to the Armenian Park — denial of the Armenian Genocide — Turkey.
Had a Holocaust-denying organization created and sponsored NPFH, Blue Cross Blue Shield would long ago have cut ties with both of them. Blue Cross Blue Shield apparently believes Armenians and their genocide do not deserve the same respect.
And, yes, the ADL still denies the Armenian genocide. Last August, ADL National Director Abe Foxman deliberately used ambiguous phrases such as “tantamount to genocide” and language that parroted Turkey’s line that the mass murder of Armenians from 1915-23 was not intentional, but rather just an unfortunate “consequence” of wartime conditions.
Blue Cross Blue Shield is squandering not only its subscribers’ premiums but also the reputations of a 70-year old health-care institution and its dedicated employees. One hopeful sign: Blue Cross Blue Shield told me, “Each year we carefully evaluate our commitment to the NPFH program.”
Though Massachusetts treats Blue Cross Blue Shield as a nonprofit, the feds consider it for-profit. Since corporate contributions to groups such as NPFH are tax-deductible, everyone is paying for NPFH. And if you’re a Blue Cross Blue Shield subscriber, as huge numbers of people in Massachusetts are, you’re shelling out even more.
Turkish doctors experimented on Armenians during the genocide just as German doctors did on Jews during the Holocaust, according to a study published in “Holocaust and Genocide Studies.” Would any network of doctors tolerate a health-care corporation affiliated with an organization that denied or diminished the Holocaust? Of course not. Blue Cross Blue Shield network doctors, therefore, should insist that Blue Cross Blue Shield cease participation in all ADL programs.
Blue Cross Blue Shield needs to drop its official NPFH designation, stop misusing its members’ precious health-care dollars on NPFH and sever ties with the ADL.
David Boyajian lives in Newton.
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