So this guy named Wendell Potter in his opening statement before Congress during the health care bill debate in September of 2009 said (the emphasis is mine):
"If Congress goes along with the so called solutions the insurance industry says it is bringing to the table, and acquiesces to the demands it is making of lawmakers and if it fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the President might as well be called “The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act."
Well that is the bill we got. We certainly didn’t get a public insurance option to help keep the private insurance companies in line.
So just who is this guy Wendell Potter? Is he/was he just a disgruntled mid-level insurance company employee? Was he just some liberal hack being brought in to bolster the liberal "Obama-care" agenda? No it turns out Wendell Potter was at one time Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA, which is one of the United States’ largest health insurance companies. As Vice President of "corporate communications" it was Potters job to design build and articulate the
message propaganda that CIGNA and the health insurance industry wanted the American populace to hear about health care.
So what happened to Wendell Potter that would change his mind so that he would say something like that in testimony before congress? According a July 27th 2009 article in The Guardian entitled: Whistleblower tells of America’s hidden nightmare for its sick poor Potter was visiting a free health care clinic being run by Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps a, non-profit, volunteer, airborne medical relief corps operating in the mid-south region of the United States and…
"What he saw appalled him. Hundreds of desperate people, most without any medical insurance, descended on the clinic from out of the hills. People queued in long lines to have the most basic medical procedures carried out free of charge. Some had driven more than 200 miles from Georgia. Many were treated in the open air. Potter took pictures of patients lying on trolleys on rain-soaked pavements."
Within a year of that life changing experience Potter had quit his position with CIGNA and became a whistleblower with a goal of revealing the distorted message that the health care/insurance industry was feeding the county.
Wendell Potter has written a book, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. In it readers can learn how the health care/insurance industry just like the tobacco industry before it carefully crafted a deceiving propaganda campaign to shape and manipulate American public opinion.
Potter tells us how he actually ‘ helped formulate the rhetoric of socialism and death panels that thundered from Republican podiums’ these past few years and helped to form ‘fake grass-roots organizations‘ and ‘bogus scientific studies’ to support and bolster the health care/insurance industry’s profit-at-all-cost position (at our cost I might add).
Congress did very much fail in their obligation to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers and yesterday a Republican controlled house even voted to repeal what few reforms we were able to achieve.
It will be very interesting to see just what the Republican controlled house is going to design and offer as legislation that will be a "better" alternative to what few real health care reforms we did get.
Some notes and further reading:
- Transcript of Wendell Potter’s Senate Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation June 24, 2009
- CNN Politics.com — Commentary: How insurance firms drive debate
- The Guardian: Whistleblower tells of America’s hidden nightmare for its sick poor
- A Speech From the Heart…”Bound To Be True”
- Ex-Cigna Exec Wendell Potter: ‘I Don’t Think Co-ops Have A Chance To Succeed Or Compete’