I first heard of Martin Eakes and Self-­ H elp in 2002 during a protracted tangle
with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina that ended with the
insurance com­pany forsaking plans to convert to a for-­profit corporation.
Some said Eakes’s stubborn insistence of conditions of the proposed con-
version ­under consideration by the state insurance department cost North
Carolina a health care endowment that could have been worth billions of
dollars. ­ Others believed he was right to insist on the particulars of a deal to
make sure citizens ­weren’t cheated out of the tax breaks the nonprofit had
enjoyed for nearly seventy years.
That’s the way it is with Eakes. He puts every­ t hing on the line when he
goes into ­ b attle. I began to see that more clearly nearly five years ­ l ater, when
my ­daughter, Evan, who had gone to work at Self-­ H elp in 2003, invited me
to hear him speak one evening ­ in Chapel Hill. For Eakes, ­ there was nothing
special about what he had to say that night; it was a speech he had given many
times before. But Eakes has a way of turning the ordinary into the compelling.
Hearing, for the first time, his account of Self-­ H elp’s improbable rise from
Final Notes
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