Ex-CIGNA Exec Pummels Health Insurers

If you’ve never heard of Wendall Potter and are interested in healthcare reform, listen to what he has to say about private insurers in an interview at Bill Moyers’ Journal. Potter is the former head PR honcho at CIGNA and resigned last year in a fit of conscience after he visited a free  healthcare “expedition” in Wise County, Virginia in July, 2007.

Wendal Potter
Wendall Potter Credit: PRwatch.org

Check out the Wise County free healthcare clinic and you’ll immediately understand how desperate people are for affordable healthcare. The expedition, according to Potter, was held on  county fairgrounds in unsanitary and un-private conditions under tents in animal stalls. He comes off as credible and claims he was neither fired nor treated badly by CIGNA. I searched for a rebuttal on CIGNA’s site, but it yielded zero results.

“It was like a lightning bolt hit me,” he said of the so-called “expedition.” Then, he goes to describe how insurers drop people and employers from their rolls when their profits dip and how he participated in an industry-wide campaign to discredit Michael Moore’s movie Sicko extolling the benefits of socialized medicine. Potter says now that the conclusions in the movie are largely correct.

Perhaps most significantly, he talks about the industry’s campaign to plant unjustified fears in the public’s mind about a government health plan. He argues that the insurance companies are simply afraid of competition (that said, they must compete with each other and the government is not under many of the same competitive pressures). Click here for CIGNA’s statement on “Commitment to Healthcare Reform.”

Public plan advocates point to Medicare’s low 2-3 per cent administrative overhead versus up to 30 percent for private insurers. Depending on where you fall in the debate, you can find numbers that argue that private insurers have lower administrative costs. But there’s no denying that private insurers’ profit-based model drives up overhead and impact who’s covered and for what. That’s just common sense.

In most respects, healthcare insurers are just doing what businesses do. But their behavior comes into serious moral conflcit when it involves an inividual’s well-being or life (Moore wants to abolish health insurers and regulate drug companuies like publi utilities. He could well be visionary on those points.) Judge for yourself, but for sure, listen to what Potter has to say.

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