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Health care reform’s biggest con

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, December 10, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

It's a safe bet that big health insurance, big pharma, and heck, pretty much all of the "bigs" would prefer that you ignore an incendiary new book called "Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans."

It's written by Wendell Potter, former head of corporate communications for Cigna, who made it over the wall last year.

In his June 2009 Senate testimony, Potter bit to the bone the manicured hand that fed him very well by detailing how big health insurance intends to manipulate, obstruct, defy and circumvent the inconvenient portions of health care reform.

He should know; he helped design the campaign.

If you're suspect or opposed to "Obamacare," if you view universal coverage as "a takeover of America's health care system," if you believe that America's current health care system is the best in the world, and if you believe that health insurance companies are the victims of skyrocketing health care costs, you've been snowed, bamboozled and hoodwinked by Potter and his former colleagues.

I'm not saying that -- Potter is.

"People are wrong if they think that this is an industry that will police itself," he told me during a recent phone chat. "We're beginning to see the results of their dirty work in misleading Americans to where polls show that many, if not a majority, are opposed to the health care reform legislation that was passed. And that's exactly what the industry wanted."

Potter says once the bigs saw the growth potential in mandated universal coverage, the road to health care reform was as smooth as a fast-moving cafeteria line in which the major health insurers picked the reforms that held the greatest potential for profit. Sure, a few consumer protections crept onto the tray like brussels sprouts. They can be easily sidestepped or watered down later.

What of the incoming Congress with its Republican and Tea Party chants to "repeal and replace" health care reform? Potter predicts big health insurance will give the newbies their marching orders this way:

"We are the folks who helped to finance your campaigns and we're going to continue to do that as long as you will do the things that we'll ask you to do, and we like a lot of this bill. So just get over the idea that this will be repealed; it ain't going to be repealed and you're not going to do it. We want that individual mandate, we've got to have it. There are some things we don't like, such as the consumer protections, and that's what you really need to go at."

Expect to hear the health insurance bigs tout "market-based solutions" a lot in the coming months, Potter predicts. "That's the buzzword for more private sector involvement in the solutions, and of course behind that rhetoric is anti-consumer measures."

Potter doesn't hear much from his former colleagues these days, now that he's a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and a senior fellow on health care at the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy.

His new career goal: spot the spin and pin the tail on the bigs.

"I wish I didn't know what I know," says Potter. "I just have such worry for our democracy because of what I know and for the prospects of meaningful reform because of what I experienced as a part of it. It's not going to be easy for us frankly to restore democracy and get the sort of health care system that our citizens deserve."

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January 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

What we need is to repeal the politicians Healthcare, and all pay and allowances, until they (the politicians)fix this. They (elected officials) should be paid via accomplishments, and they should be a way to get them out of office if they can not produce solutions to this Country's problems!

Gary M. Ruehle
December 20, 2010 at 10:22 am

The CEO's of these criminal enterprises called insurance companies should be arrested and put in jail for life for the way they are letting people DIE for their profits. If we totally got RID of insurance companies and had national health CARE and not insurance, everyone could get any care they needed just by seeing their doctor or hospital. We would still pay premiums, like medicare, it would NOT be a tax burden on us but they would only be a couple hundred dollars a month for FULL coverage, NOT thousands because we would not be paying for the obscene profits of these corporate criminals. WHY should we have to pay for the outrageous multi million dollar salaries, yachts, private jets and multi million dollar lobbyests etc for insurance company big wigs when this money should be going to pay for our health care? If these outrageous "profits" went to pay for our care as it should, it is obvious our health care would be SO much cheaper and better as there would be no insurance company to decide what care they will cover and not cover. Medicare and Medicade work.
I know from personal experience with Universal Health Care Inc of St. Petersburg how bad it is when they first approved major surgery for a deadly knee infection I had, gave me a claim number, written letters they would pay, then AFTER the surgery refused to pay. Dr. Edward Lowenstein their medical director gave more reasons than flees on a dog for totally disenrolling me! This of course left me destitute as I had to pay everything myself, my wife had to sell everything she owned, jewelry, furniture, etc just to keep me alive. And Dr. Akshay Desai, CEO of this company refused to do anything, just go on bilking other people that were unfortunate to belong to his company. America is the ONLY country in the world that has "for profit" insurance companies. Their profits translate to less care for those in need. Google: "Domestic terrorism, gary's blog" to see a real horror story and factual information on what these criminal enterprises that call themselves insurance companies are doing to the American people. Gary, St. Petersburg, Florida

Ryan G
December 19, 2010 at 10:10 am

There are supposed to be 5 comments here. I can only see one. Where are the other 4? I know there is a delay but this is an old post. I have noticed this repeatedly on the bankrate blogs.

December 12, 2010 at 7:07 am

The Republicans are the ultimate hypocrites!
How do we pay for health care reform ?
** How do you pay for tax cuts for the wealthy ?
1. First attempt : threatening Social Security and Medicare Cut through the deficit panel.
2. Second attempt : holding the desperate Hostage, say, by the Ransom.
3. Kick the campaign pledge of spending cut, deficit reduction down the road.
4. Don't ask don't tell us about the tax giveaway spree, it's our holy grail.
** Inaction cost, $9trillion over the next decade, ((Some of CBO analysis : While the costs of the financial bailouts and economic stimulus bills are staggering, they are only a fraction of the coming costs from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that each year Medicaid will expand by 7 percent, Medicare by 6 percent, and Social Security by 5 percent. These programs face a 75-year shortfall of $43 trillion--60 times greater than the gross cost of the $700 billion TARP financial bailout)).
Over the duration of healthcare debate, using the preliminary cost analysis of CBO, the reps opposed the public option stubbornly, but after the release of final score, they have been defiant on the referee.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that :
Inaction cost in relation to health care reform totals $9trillion over the next decade.
Reform will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years and as much as $1 trillion during the following decade.