It took him twenty years, but the former head of corporate communications at Cigna, one the country’s largest insurance companies,has had a radical change of heart regarding his industry. In various interviews and in front of a Senate panel, Wendell Potter has courageously revealed the lies and deceptions behind the insurance industry’s massively funded campaign to prevent either a nationalized, single-payer health care – or even the watered-down so-called public option – from becoming reality in our lifetimes.
The best of his recent interviews appeared in Guernica, where Wendell spoke frankly about how insurance companies generate huge profits by denying their customers care. He also spoke about how industry front groups such as the Health Benefits Coalition disseminate misinformation about the rest of the modern world’s national health-care systems (by attacking Michael Moore’s Sicko) and attempts to reform our own (death panels!).
Here are some quotes from Potter’s Guernica interview with Jack Whitney:
“When I saw [Sicko], I’ll be honest: I thought it was a real good documentary. I knew from my own studies of other healthcare systems that it was an accurate portrayal of those systems and how they are able to provide universal coverage.”
“As recently as fifteen years ago, the medical-loss ratio in this country was 95 percent. Since then, there’s been great industry consolidation to the point that now there are seven companies that dominate. They’re all for-profit. During the time that this consolidation, this shift to for-profit occurred, the medical-loss ratio has continued to drop. Now it’s around 80 percent. That means twenty cents of every dollar goes to something other than paying medical claims.”
“What I’m telling people is that our current reality is far scarier than the fear-mongering. What people have now is a corporate bureaucrat who stands between a person and his or her doctor. That’s much scarier than the specter of more government….Because every person who works for a for-profit company knows that the company has to meet Wall Street’s expectations.”
“But the reality is that the free-market simply does not work in the healthcare sector as it might in other sectors. A public insurance plan wouldn’t need to have the sales, marketing, and underwriting expenses—and would certainly not need to pay executives exorbitant salaries, and would not need to set aside a significant chunk of every premium dollar to pay shareholders—that private plans do.”
“To those that question my motives, I’d just like to say that I’m doing this because I think it’s the right thing to do. And the timing was something that… I don’t know if it would have been better had I done this earlier. Maybe so; I don’t know. But the way it’s turned out may be just as effective. Right now, the debate is at its peak.”