Whistle-Blower Blues

Is the Writers Union Censoring Its Critics?

In an e-mail dated June 27, Tani discouraged Applegate from contacting regulators, because "it will be brought to their attention that an insurance company is offering group rates and benefits to individuals," whereupon regulators would issue a cease and desist order. "While it's not against the law for carriers to do this (obviously, or we wouldn't have a plan) they HATE to do it and would be all too happy to get a cease and desist order, which they no doubt will after an investigation," Tani wrote. She then recalled how a 1994 investigation caused the union to lose Blue Cross, which Tasini confirmed later that day. Tasini dismissed the regulators' beef as a "bureaucratic technicality" and pleaded with Applegate not to jeopardize health insurance for freelancers.

In an interview, Applegate said she stuck with Aetna, which paid her claims.

Asked about the e-mails, Menaker said, "I can't comment on those types of things until the committee completes its report." She said the committee will ask "all the relevant questions" about accountability and that the National Executive Board will make the final determination. As for liability, she said, "I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know what the legal issues are."

CSS president Rick Tani confirmed the veracity of statements made in Applegate's correspondence, but denied withholding the terms of the policy. "Why would we refuse to provide that information to 800 members?"

Tasini did not return calls for comment.

ccotts@villagevoice.com

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