Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Ogden Newspapers Inc. Stifling the Truth about Carelink Health Plans, Inc.

Tuesday’s Tirade
Freedom of the People vs. Responsibility of the Press

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers." ~General Assembly of the United Nations

Public pressure is building. It is the public who will eventually overpower the lobbying of the managed care industry. Incessant voices calling for more transparency, calling for change.

President Barack Obama, in his address before the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18, 2009, described the hope he has in our citizens:

You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day I walk into that Oval Office - the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans - that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.

It is this thread that binds us together in common effort; that runs through every memorial on this mall; that connects us to all those who struggled and sacrificed and stood here before.

It is how this nation has overcome the greatest differences and the longest odds - because there is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

There is no better place to begin the search for transparency than with mainstream media. Although I will have my day in court soon in my civil lawsuit against Carelink Health Plans, Inc (HMO) of West Virginia, the many media I contacted chose to ignore my story, despite the fact that the abuse continues along with the harm to many West Virginians.

In 2006, Judge Jack Debolt and the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jane Cline issued a FINAL Order (06-AP-024) that mandated Carelink Health Care, Inc of West Virginia (HMO) to “thoroughly” review each request for a health benefit from a physician in its network before Carelink makes a determination. Judge Debolt was so shocked by the disregard of Carelink of the appeals process that he became indignant at their “egregious behavior” and issued this unprecedented order.

How did the press handle the story I brought to their attention with a sense of urgency? They did not. One MSN (main stream media) after another shunned me. So I will now use my blog, the "new media", to give an accounting of each contact I made over the past few years.

It is right to begin my accounting of MSN, by writing about Ogden Newspapers Inc., a conglomerate of media and holdings that is headquartered in my hometown,Wheeling WV. It is an unusual story of one prominent West Virginia family member speaking the truth to the power of another prominent West Virginia family.

Tuesday's Tale
The Blatant Disregard for Truth

It might have been an ordinary phone call under other circumstances. One neighbor seeking another’s assistance. Only this time it was a grave matter and the neighbor’s family owned a major conglomerate of newspaper media, property and assorted significant investments.

It was October 12, 2008. I telephoned Mr. Ogden Nutting, my neighbor and former CEO of Ogden Newspapers, Inc. and I left a message for him to phone me. I believed Nutting to be a gentleman who as an elder in his church would surely have concerns about the corruption I had discovered in West Virginia.

Flashback to November 14, 2007. I contacted Mike Myer, the Editor of the Wheeling News Register, an Ogden newspaper, to request a story about the abuses of my HMO, Carelink Health Plans of West Virginia. Over the past five years Myer has been very supportive of my advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill. He quietly listened. He would assign a top reporter, Betsy Bethel, to cover this story. Myer’s final words were, “Thank you.”

The interview with Bethel was in early 2008 at my home. A lengthy discussion. Bethel, too, thanked me as she left, having assured me that she would write several stories once she collected and sorted her notes. It was not until April 21, 2008, that Bethel e-mailed me apologetically about the delay, with new assurances of a story.

About this time I spoke again with Mike Myer, discussing a letter to the editor I wrote and e-mailed to him, which he stated that he received. The letter concerned the decision by the WV Insurance Commission not to enforce Final Order 06-AP-024 that would enable consumers to receive better service from their HMO.

My “incessant voice” fell on deaf ears. Bethel never contacted me. Myer never published this letter. What happened? Nothing. What had changed?

It was the January 4, 2009, edition of the Wheeling News Register that highlighted a new publication by two Wheeling authors about old Wheeling families. The book is entitled "The Wheeling Family: A Celebration of Immigrants and Their Neighborhoods" and focused on the history of thirty-five Wheeling families. Ironically, the editorial board chose as its one picture, to give interest to the story, that of the “O’Brien Clan,” my family, as it shed the spotlight on a little of Wheeling’s history.

In the book, the authors describe the Patriarch of the O’Briens, Colonel Thomas O’Brien, as exemplary for his desire “to do right.” He was “a valiant and influential advocate.” O’Brien, my great-grandfather, spoke of character as the main ingredient to leadership.

As I have interacted over the past four years with the newspaper staff of the Wheeling News Register, one of many Ogden holdings, I do now wonder at the character of the present generation, a member of the fourth generation like me, Robert Nutting, the present publisher.

How could I not have serious doubts about "Bob" Nutting? Has he wandered too far astray from the strong core values of decency and integrity that were established by his own great-grandfather? Why no story? What are the implications for me and the many others who have no voice and depend on our local newspapers to report the truth, both sides of the truth?

The answer is obvious. We each begin to blog and unite with other bloggers who desire free press. (see the link to freepress.net)

Today I write a tale of two Wheeling generations, both of whom come from an illustrious past. It is in living our todays, however, that "Bob" and I are ever so different.

We’ll chat some more about this misfortunate indifference to the suffering of others and about MSN, what some people write is a dying media.

Tuesday’s Tale

New Opportunities with the Obama Administration

“Never doubt that a
Small group of thoughtful,
Committed citizens can
Change the world.
Indeed it’s the only
Thing that ever has.”
~Margaret Mead

I am only one American, a powerless senior citizen in the eyes of the powerful, but I have found my voice. And it is loud and clear as I attack those who act in darkness at the cost of quality life to others. And the powerful are taking notice.

The process of speaking out begins with dedication to locating the facts, working with like-minded people to form communities, and finding a medium to promote your cause. Blogging is one such powerful tool for change. So is linking to President Barack Obama’s website www.whitehouse.gov.

President Barack Obama seeks to change America but he is not doing this alone. He is challenging us to accept personal responsibility to get involved in the process. Are you really interested in health care reform as I am? Then step out and speak your mind. Do you really care that companies like Coventry Health Care continue to block your receiving your benefits? Then do one thing. Speak out in one way.

It has never been easier to become involved in advancing positive change. Speaking as one is an effective tool to help shape policy that left to the usual process is corrupted by special interests groups.

We each have a story to tell and on www.whitehouse.gov there are several unique opportunities. Recently, the Obama transition team added a new feature. It’s the Citizen’s Briefing Book and President Obama will be reading many of these ideas.

One suggested activity is to invite others into your home or community to discuss the key issues and concerns, to offer suggestions that coupled with other ideas, may become a part of history. The transition team prepared a organizational manual which you can download.

How many of us have allowed bad things to happen to good people? Our apathy has been contagious, as crooked people and institutions expected it to be. But today is a new day, a time for a soul searching and a good place to begin is with www.whitehouse.gov.

My voice began as a whimper. Four years later it is stronger and others support my efforts, giving authority to my actions. Four years ago, when facing the evil of Coventry Health Care, Inc., I was counseled that I had no choice as a Christian, that I must claim my power and fight with determination, ingenuity, and passion. My seventy-seven year-old cleric was right. Light does shine on the darkness, but it is we average citizens who will speak justice to the powerful.

It’s time for change.

Look at yourself in the mirror and you will see where change must begin.

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