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He's not well known to most Americans.  But he worked for almost 20 years as an insurance executive, almost 15 for Cigna (one of the nation's largest insurance companies) until he decided he'd had enough. He then blew the whistle on insurers at congressional hearings last June when he revealed how private insurers dumped patients with costly health problems to protect their profits.  Now he's speaking out on the practices of these same insurers.   He gave up a high paying job as an insurance company PR honcho in a giant glass and concrete high-rise for a simpler life with a non-profit, citizen based group, the Center for Media and Democracy based in Madison, Wisconsin.   Ladies and Gentlemen please meet (and LISTEN UP) to Wendell Potter. Potter has insights into corporate insurance practices that are especially important now that President Obama has told us in his health care speech that his own plan will largely be based on private insurance (with some tweaks of the old, failed system). NOTE:  this diary has been updated to include a long talk between Amy Goodman and Potter on  See Update #3.

Potter was interviewed by Shawn Doherty of the Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) in preparation for Potter's speech at the Fighting Bob Fest, the largest annual meeting of progressives in America.  Kudos to Doherty who did an excellent job of journalism.  Here are some highlights (edited) from the Wendell Potter-Doherty interview with my annotated comments following.

  1.  First, on why Potter left the insurance companies to fight against them:

CT: You were a big shot for years for the health insurance industry. Why did you suddenly decide to switch sides...?

Potter: My decision to leave the industry and speak out were two different things. I chose to leave my job because I was growing increasingly disillusioned about the kinds of health care policies that the industry is moving toward. The industry calls them consumer-directed plans, which is a euphemism that would make one think they might have been designed by consumers for consumers. But they are not in the best interest of most Americans. They require high deductibles and require people to make more decisions on their own and pay more expenses out of their own pockets. There are other policies that are called limited-benefit plans that don't cover nearly enough. I refer to many of these plans as fake insurance or junk insurance because people are under the misapprehension that insurance is comprehensive. But the marketing materials companies use are misleading...

...Lately, as I've been talking to groups, I've been apologizing for the role I played in defeating reform. I'm ashamed not only of what the industry has done and become but of those of us who have done public relations for the big role we play. What I'm doing now is making amends for cheating people out of reform when the insurance industry killed the Clinton plan. It's something that I can't do over so I'm trying to make use of the insider information that I have to explain to people how the industry really works.

SOURCE:  (same source throughout unless otherwise noted)

FFlambeau comment:  Notice Potter's statement about "junk insurance"-- something that is lost in the talk of reform.  We hear about the insured vs. the uninsured but few people realize how many of the "insured" actually have "junk insurance":  insurance that has limited benefits, high deductibles and make people pay expenses out of their own pockets.  This problem MUST be addressed in any Obama, insurance-based plan. Since Potter was a PR man, he knows what he's talking about when he also says that insurance company marketing techniques mislead people (and politicians) on what they in fact do.

  1.  On the problems facing the Clinton Administration compared to the problems now:

CT: How has the industry changed in the past 15 years or so since there was a similar debate over the Clinton plans for health care reform?

Potter: The for-profit insurers now dominate the industry. There has been significant consolidation since the last time we had this debate. There are now fewer insurance companies and a small number of very, very large companies... The seven largest of these companies have total revenues of $250 billion. One out of every three people who has coverage is enrolled with them. So they are ...dominant. Today insurance premiums are much higher, people have few choices, and the costs of care are much higher. More people are uninsured. And a real problem that will soon get much worse is that a growing number of people are underinsured - enrolled in these high-deductible or limited insurance plans that don't really protect them.

FFlambeau comment:  Great question!  And great, no bullshit answer.  Note again the emphasis on not just the UNINSURED but the importance of the UNDERINSURED who do not show up so much in the statistics that even the administration  is using.  

  1.  A good follow-up question to the above:

CT: How might this changed marketplace affect the battle over health care reform?

Potter: What we really have now is a cartel of large insurance companies that control not only the market but the debate on health insurance. And most people don't even know it. These companies contribute millions and millions of dollars on lobbying efforts to persuade politicians to vote against reform and on public relations campaigns that are designed to mislead and deceive people. They are much richer and much more powerful than they were in '93 and '94 and even back then they were able to kill the Clinton plan.

FFlambeau comment:  And Max Baucus and many of our Democratic friends are taking their money too!

  1.  How insurance companies attempted to belittle Michael Moore and "Sicko":

CT: How did the industry really work in the campaign to discredit Michael Moore and his movie "SiCKO" - which you played a part in?

Potter: The industry trade association was very worried about the movie and started the effort to discredit it and Michael Moore even before it came out. The PR strategy was to try to discredit the filmmaker by referring to him as "Hollywood filmmaker Michael Moore" as opposed to a documentary movie maker. And to demean and criticize the health systems in the movie. They used the same PR tactics that they used to defeat reform in 1993 by warning that if Americans were to embrace a system like one of the countries depicted in the movie they would be getting socialism and a government takeover of health care. The industry created a front group called Health Care America that was operated by a PR group. It was a real shell organization and it was created only to discredit the movie. These are typical tactics used by the tobacco industry.

...They were able to radicalize and marginalize Michael Moore. They were able to make people believe anything Michael Moore did was too socialistic and to the left of most Americans to be considered credible. The overall impact of the movie was diminished by this concerted effort and the millions of dollars spent to discredit it. I suspect the industry spent more money to discredit the movie than Michael Moore spent to make it.

FFlambeau Comment:  The same kind of effort that big business has always used against Michael Moore.  But you know:  it didn't work because Michael Moore doesn't give up!

  1.  Potter's view of Moore's "Sicko":

CT: What did you think personally about the movie you tried to tear down?

Potter: It was very accurate. ...

FFlambeau Comment (speaking with a megaphone):  YEESS IT WAASS! Michael Moore rocks.

  1.  How Moore's movie influenced Potter to "take the leap":

CT: What finally made you take the leap?

Potter: A month after "SICKO" came out I was visiting my parents, who live in the northeastern part of Tennessee very close to the border of Virginia. And I heard about this health care exposition being held up the road in West Virginia and it intrigued me. So I went to take a look at it ... When I walked through the fairground gates I was just stunned... There were hundreds and hundreds of people waiting in line, standing in the rain, just to get care. They were treating patients in animal stalls. Other treatment areas were in tents. You could see people being treated right out there in the open, like this was a war-torn country or refugee camp or a Third World country. And I thought: is this my country?

FFlambeau comment:  Recently there was another one of these health care expositions, this time in Los Angeles (I cannot remember the wonderful elderly gentlemen (in his 70's) who sponsors these; any help readers?) and the result was the same.  We ARE living in a 3rd world country.  The United States is the only major industrial country in the West that has such a shitty (and costly) system of "health care".

UPDATED to include this comment & info from YucatanMan:

The organization that put on the LA Health Fairs was Remote Area Medical:

They normally provide services - organizing local and traveling doctors, dentists, nurses, etc - in Third World Nations.  But lately, it's been more clear that the USA needs lots of help too. And, the health care professionals needed for such fairs are readily available too.

Donate to them. I do.

  1. On why it is a MISTAKE to build on the failed, insurance-based system (as Obama's health care "reform" does):

CT: Is it possible to have a decent health care system driven by profits?

Potter: I don't think so...By focusing on profits you have to take measures to reduce risk. You have to figure out ways to deny coverage or exclude some people from coverage.

CT: But this spring, health insurance executives promised to do away with pre-existing condition exclusions.

Potter: Empty rhetoric. That is the part of the PR campaign that they want you to see. The charm offensive. You'll see some executives on TV and read their quotes in newspapers. You'll hear them testify in Congress and promise (President) Obama they will work to help achieve reform. They want you to believe they're wearing white hats. But the other secret campaign is one they don't want you to see. They're working through these big PR firms that use conservative talk-shows hosts and editorial writers to be what they call third-party advocates. To be shills. To scare people by using terms like "government takeover" and "tax increases" and "socialism." It's fabrication and based on lies but that's fine with them as long as they achieve their end results.

CT: Which end results?

Potter: Cheating reform.

FFlambeau Comment:  The above discussion is hugely important, especially where Potter calls out the "reform" talk on the "promise to do away with pre-existing condition exclusions"  as "empty rhetoric".  Remember a certain politician who recently spoke to the nation and promised to do away with "pre-existing conditions exclusions"?  It ain't gonna happen in a system that is still built on the rotten foundations of private insurance because insurance is predicated on paying out less in benefits than insurers take in by way of premiums.

  1.  How insurers (and their allies) manipulate public opinion & the role of the media:

CT: ... So are you saying these people are stupid to believe this stuff?

Potter: People keep falling for it because there is almost no awareness of how special interests manipulate public opinion. ...the big, rich special interests are able to not only work through lobbyists to persuade lawmakers to do things their own way but have become almost invisible persuaders. And people unwillingly and unknowingly have become pawns and advocates and spokespeople for the industry. And they don't even know it. Because often they are getting their information not from the mainstream media but from people they think are credible and trustworthy sources. From an editorial writer or conservative talk-show host. I know that, for example, back in the Clinton campaign they were able to get information to people like Rush Limbaugh. They worked through big conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, all allies of the industry. So they funnel talking points and get information to these pundits. The editorial page director of the Wall Street Journal is on their speed dial right now...

CT: But if reform fails is it really as simple as because the industry is powerful and evil and blocks meaningful change? How about the roles being played - or not - by the media and pro-reform activists?

Potter: ...The media has not done an adequate job of showing what is really going on. Part of the reason is we've seen a decline in the resources of the mainstream media. Reporters are stressed. There's not much news space or interest on the part of editors to health care in an adequate way. There is very little investigative journalism. Even the best papers are not doing a very good job in covering all the reasons we're having this debate. They're just resorting to the fairly easy task of reporting the contest on Capitol Hill.

FFlambeau Comment:  Yup, little investigative journalism and consolidation in the mainstream media, meaning fewer news outlets and more outlets owned by the same people.  Bill Clinton and the Democrats made a huge mistake when they permitted this back in the 90's. It's a problem that the Obama administration should revisit.

  1.  On the future and what can be done:

CT: How about advocates for reform?

Potter: The advocates have not done a very good job of representing the benefits of reform, in presenting what a public option would be and how it would benefit people. I don't think that the advocates anticipated adequately and planned adequately for the opposition that was inevitable...the enemies of health care reform have used these same tactics time and time again. Frankly what we're seeing is that health care advocates were overconfident. I kept hearing that the stars were aligning and that now that we had Obama in the White House and Democrats in the majority, well, what could go wrong? Well, I'll be blunt. Yes, the president gave wonderful speeches but he has failed to communicate the real reasons we need this reform. Maybe that will change next week when he speaks to Congress. Maybe then he will refute the lies and call them out. But he needs to really connect to people emotionally to make sure they understand what we need to do and why.

CT: So what's going to happen in the next few weeks?

Potter: I predict Congress will pass something. The president and Congress have so much invested they will claim victory and do their best to persuade the public that it is a big step forward. But I do worry that some of the most important components of the legislation might not survive. I am not throwing in the towel. Some people have already written the obituary for the public insurance option. I'm hopeful. But it will take a lot more leadership. ...people in Wisconsin [must] get in touch with their members of Congress. It's not enough to have voted for a president or to have large majorities. There are billions at stake and the industry is fighting this big-time. These could be the most important weeks in our country's history. People need to see it in that way and do more than they are currently doing to communicate their hopes and their beliefs.

FFlambeau Comment:  The push for true health-care reform (and I don't mean a half-assed system based on a failed and costly private insurance foundation that has NOT worked for decades) will need to come from a groundswell of average Americans.  And I don't mean from the top-down because our "top" has already been co-opted. Remember all of those secret, closed door meeting between the administration and the insurers?  And this coming after a promise to hold ALL health care reform meetings in public and to televise them live on C-SPAN.  What a whopper that was!    

Kudos again to Wendell Potter and the journalist from the Capital Times who interviewed him, Shawn Doherty.  We often complain about journalists but this one did a great job!  You can send your compliments to the journalist at:

UPDATE #1:  Video Interview of Potter with Bill Moyers.

You can see a great interview by one of America's best journalists, Bill Moyers, who talks with Potter.  I'm not savvy enough to clip the video and post it here but maybe someone can help?  Moyer's web site also has Potter's testimony before congress and lots of other good stuff.  Here's how it is all described over at Bill Moyer's web site:

Last month, testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by a former health insurance insider named Wendell Potter made news even before it occurred: CBS NEWS headlined: "Cigna Whistleblower to Testify." After Potter's testimony the industry scrambled to do damage control: "Insurers defend rescissions, take heat for lack of transparency."

In his first extended television interview since leaving the health insurance industry, Wendell Potter tells Bill Moyers why he left his successful career as the head of Public Relations for CIGNA, one of the nation's largest insurers, and decided to speak out against the industry. ...

Potter began his trip from health care spokesperson to reform advocate while back home in Tennessee. Potter attended a "health care expedition," a makeshift health clinic set up at a fairgrounds, and he tells Bill Moyers, "It was absolutely stunning. When I walked through the fairground gates, I saw hundreds of people lined up, in the rain. It was raining that day. Lined up, waiting to get care, in animal stalls. Animal stalls."

Looking back over his long career, Potter sees an industry corrupted by Wall Street expectations and greed. According to Potter, insurers have every incentive to deny coverage — every dollar they don't pay out to a claim is a dollar they can add to their profits, and Wall Street investors demand they pay out less every year. Under these conditions, Potter says, "You don't think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you're going to meet Wall Street's expectations."

You can view Wendel Potter's congressional testimony online or read the text.

You can learn more about Remote Area Medical, the organization that put on the "health care expedition" here.

Strategy Memos

During the interview, Bill Moyers read from confidential documents drafted by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) in May and June of 2007. The documents outline a unified strategy for AHIP members to prepare for the release of Michael Moore's documentary, SICKO on June 29, 2007.
You can download and read the full AHIP documents by clicking here and here (PDFs).

The Language of Health Care 2009 (PDF)
The Frank Luntz memo strategizing opposition to health care reform Bill Moyers mentions in the interview.

GOP Health Care Strategy (PDF)
Strategy memo by Alex Castellanos dated July 7, 2009.


Potter, by the way, recently spoke at the Fighting Bob Fest near Madison.  Their website has video clips of speakers (but unfortunately it looks like video clips from past Bob Fest's and not this year's.  Maybe they can get a You Tube video up of this year's talk given by Potter?

UPDATE #2:  Info on Potter from the PR Watchdog:  Center for Media and Democracy.

Wendell Potter has served since May 2009 as CMD's Senior Fellow on Health Care. After a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, last year he left his job as head of communications for one of the nation's largest health insurers to try his hand at helping socially responsible organizations -- including those advocating for meaningful health care reform -- achieve their goals.

Before his big switch, Wendell held a variety of positions at CIGNA Corporation over 15 years, serving most recently as head of corporate communications and as the company's chief corporate spokesman.

Prior to joining CIGNA, Wendell headed communications at Humana Inc., another large for-profit health insurer. Before that he was director of public relations and advertising for The Baptist Health System of East Tennessee. He also has been a partner in an Atlanta public relations firm, a press secretary to a Democratic nominee for governor of Tennessee and as a lobbyist in Washington for the organizers of the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn. He also served as a member of the public relations and international marketing team for the Fair and traveled to Europe, Africa and South America on country recruitment missions.

Wendell also was a journalist. His first job after college was as a reporter for Scripps-Howard's afternoon paper in Memphis. He wrote about Memphis businesses and local government before being sent to Nashville to cover the governor's office and state legislature. Two years later he was promoted to the Scripps-Howard News Bureau in Washington where he covered Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court and wrote a weekly political column.

Wendell is a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he received a B.A. degree in communications and did postgraduate work in journalism and public relations. ...


Wendell Potter's blog is here:

UPDATE #3:  Potter interview/video on

Wendell Potter was interviewed by Amy Goodman on the indispensable on 7/16/2009.   Please see the entire video clip there, or listen to the interview, or read the entire transcript of which I'm posting an edited part of (it's a VERY long, in-depth interview; please have a look at the whole thing):

AMY GOODMAN: ...we spend the hour today with a former top executive from one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies who has begun exposing some of the industry’s dirty secrets. This whistleblower testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last month.

WENDELL POTTER: My name is Wendell Potter, and for twenty years I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies. And I saw how they confused their customers and dumped the sick, so all they—so also they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter joins us...
Up until last year he was the head of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance companies. He served as CIGNA’s chief corporate spokesperson. He also once headed communications at Humana, another large for-profit health insurer. In 2007, Wendell Potter helped spearhead the healthcare industry’s campaign against Michael Moore’s movie Sicko.

AMY GOODMAN: So why have you decided to speak out?

WENDELL POTTER: You know, when I left, I left voluntarily. It was a little over a year ago. I just decided I didn’t want to keep doing that. I had no longer felt that what I was doing was the right thing....

AMY GOODMAN: But you were a critical part of that, being in communications and then head of communications at CIGNA.

WENDELL POTTER: I was. I was a person who was often speaking for not just the company, but sometimes the industry. ...So, as a consequence, I know pretty much the game plan that they have developed and used and the talking points that they use....

AMY GOODMAN: ...What is the game plan of the health insurance industry?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, the game plan is based on scare tactics. And, of course, the thing they fear most is that the country will at some point gravitate toward a single-payer plan. That’s the ultimate fear that they have. ...They fear even the public insurance option that’s being proposed, that was part of President Obama’s campaign platform, his healthcare platform. And they’ll pull out all the stops they can to defeat that.  And they’ll be working with their ideological allies, with the business community, with conservative pundits and editorial writers, to try to scare people into thinking that embracing a public health insurance option would lead us down the...slippery slope toward socialism and that you will be...putting a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor. ...

AMY GOODMAN: What turned you? Why did you change?

WENDELL POTTER: I changed because over the last two or three years I began seeing more than I’d ever seen before and became more knowledgeable of how health insurance—how health insurance companies make money, how they maximize profits. ...But I also saw how—you know, the things that they do to maximize their profit, which really boils down to dumping the sick.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, "dumping the sick"?

WENDELL POTTER: Two different ways that they do this. In the individual insurance market...Once you file a claim, if you are unfortunate enough to get very sick or have an accident and file a claim, you very often will find that your insurance company will go back and look at your application to see if there might be a chance that you either didn’t disclose something that you knew about in the past or inadvertently didn’t disclose something or might not have known about a pre-existing condition. They’ll use that as evidence that you were committing fraud, and they’ll revoke your policy, or they call it "rescinding" your policy, leaving you holding the bag, making you completely responsible for all the medical bills. ....

Another is, if you are employed, particularly with a small business, and your insurance—your employer gets his or her insurance through one of the large insurers, and if just one person in your company files a claim that the underwriters think is too high, if it skews what they think is the appropriate medical experience or claim experience, when that business comes up for renewal, they very likely will jack up the rates so much that your employer has no alternative but to leave and leave you and all of your coworkers without insurance. Either that or they may cut benefits ... But the end result is, you may find yourself dumped into the rolls and the ranks of the uninsured.

AMY GOODMAN: Was there a seminal moment when you were head of communications at CIGNA that really made you start to look? ...

WENDELL POTTER: I was very isolated, along with most insurance company executives who deal with numbers all the time—profit margins and medical loss ratios and earnings per share and how many millions of members you have, or things like that. It’s just—they’re just numbers. ...I happened to learn about a healthcare expedition that was being held at a nearby town across the state line in Virginia. And I was intrigued, borrowed my dad’s car and drove up to Wise County to see what was going on there. And this expedition was being held at the Wise County fairgrounds, and it was being put on by this group called Remote Area Medical that got its start several years ago taking volunteer doctors from this country to remote villages in South America, where people really don’t have any access to medical care. The founder realized pretty soon, though, that the need in this country is very, very great, and he started holding similar expeditions in rural communities throughout the country. And this one was nearby. I decided to check it out. ...when I walked through the fairground gates, it was just absolutely overwhelming. What I saw were people who were lined up. ...They were lined up in the rain by the hundreds, waiting to get care that was being donated by doctors and nurses and dentists and other caregivers, and they were being treated in animal stalls. Volunteers had come to disinfect the animal stalls. They also had set up tents. It looked like a MASH unit. It looked like this could have been something that was happening in a war-torn country, and war refugees were there to get their care. It was just unbelievable, and it just drove it home to me, maybe for the first time, that we were talking about real human beings and not just numbers.

AMY GOODMAN: ... I asked him whether he felt many of the journalists covering the health insurance industry are acting as PR agents for the industry.

WENDELL POTTER: I do think so, maybe unwittingly in many cases.... But also, just the way the mainstream media’s influence has changed and the—excuse me, the decline in newspaper circulation and just the way that people get their information, that has changed, and that has worked to the favor of people like I used to be—PR professionals and corporate executives. There aren’t as many reporters as there used to be. The so-called news hole isn’t as big as it used to be to have investigative pieces. Reporters ... will just accept a statement that’s given to them from a corporate PR guy, like I used to be, and run with it and think their obligation is done, or just don’t have the time to explore it or do any in-depth stories. So, in that regard, I think they really are unwittingly helping the insurance industry.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2007, CIGNA denied a California teenager, Nataline Sarkisyan, coverage for a liver transplant. Her family went to the media. ...The California Nurses Association joined in. Geri Jenkins is head of the CNA.

GERI JENKINS: It’s just really atrocious that we let decisions be made based on money and not on human life and what’s necessary to keep people alive. The Sarkisyans had insurance. ...They had insurance. They had done everything that was expected of them. They worked hard. They provided insurance. And yet, when they needed it, it wasn’t there for them.

AMY GOODMAN: Under mounting pressure, CIGNA finally granted coverage for the liver transplant. But it was too late. Two hours later, Nataline died.

AMY GOODMAN: Wendell Potter, can you talk about—well, I’m sure this was a challenge for CIGNA—and how you dealt with this story?

WENDELL POTTER: It was a challenge. And frankly, it was probably within a month or so after I first learned of Nataline Sarkisyan that I told the company that I worked for—pardon me—that I had come to the end of my career and had a long run at CIGNA, but it was time for me to go.


It was a very, very difficult time for—I can’t imagine what it was like for the family....

AMY GOODMAN: And how were you feeling at the time?

WENDELL POTTER: Oh, just devastated. I have a daughter myself. ... it was just crushing for me and a lot of people that I worked with at CIGNA, too. ...And certainly, from a public relations point of view, CIGNA really suffered a black eye. And I, as the spokesman for the company... And I was—my name was on the website, and my contact information was on the website, CIGNA’s website, and so people were venting their frustration. I received—I can’t tell you how many emails, how many voicemail messages and calls from people who were just outraged. ...

AMY GOODMAN: I want to stick with the media and the power of the media. You were the point person on Michael Moore’s film Sicko.


AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened and how you organized against his film...

WENDELL POTTER: Well, frankly, I was very conflicted, because when I saw the movie for the first time...I knew it was an honest film...But the industry knew, from the moment that we heard that Michael Moore was going to be doing a film, a documentary, on the health insurance industry, that—or not just the health insurance industry, but the whole American healthcare system, that undoubtedly the American insurance system would not fare too well. And so, over the course of many months leading up to the premier of the movie, the industry was very active in trying to figure out how to blunt the impact of the movie when it did premier and was very careful to avoid any memos being written that had Michael Moore’s name or Sicko in the subject line, because there was this great fear that it would be leaked to Michael Moore, and he would use it as part of his publicity campaign. Apparently, such a memo was leaked from one of the pharmaceutical companies, and he used it to great advantage. So all of the memos would have the subject line "Hollywood," and all the conversations would be on very secretive conference calls.

And then, when the movie was about to premier, the industry—it was premiered, as you may remember, in Cannes at the film festival in 2007, and the industry, through some connections that it had in the entertainment business, was able to fly someone to France to get a ticket and to sit in the theater during the first screening of the movie.... And that gave the companies some time to prepare, to develop talking points to counteract the ultimate questions, the inevitable questions that would be asked when the movie was beginning to premier in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: And what were the buzzwords, the talking points, that you developed...

WENDELL POTTER: ... Number one, with regards to Michael Moore himself, they knew that he could be a polarizing figure and that conservatives don’t like him, so they—the industry—part of the industry strategy was to recruit conservative pundits and editorial writers and members of Congress who were conservative and aligned with the industry’s agenda and point of view. And we would do media training with all of our executives, because there was the expectation that Moore would do ambush interviews, as he has done in some of his previous films. That didn’t happen, but if they had, we had our executives well trained with how to handle such an interview. We referred to him—we were prepared to refer to him in any interviews we did have as Michael Moore the movie maker, the entertainer, in an effort to diminish his importance as a documentary maker, to try to cast him as part of the Hollywood establishment and someone who was really making a fantasy, rather than a documentary. ...

The other was to use the subject of what he was doing, which was—you know, as you may recall, he went to many different countries that have universal care, including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and even Cuba, and some other places, to show how people can get care and have much better access to care than in the United States. The industry saw this certainly as a threat. They didn’t like seeing those countries’ healthcare systems depicted in a positive light, because they’d been fighting that kind of a system for many years. So the talking points were to demean a single-payer system or a government-run system. Government-run—whenever you hear someone who’s allied with the industry talk about a government-run system, they’ll use the term pejoratively, and they’ll say that it will put us on the slippery slope toward socialism, or it will put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor....

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the way the Senate now is dealing with healthcare, and Congress overall, and the power that the health insurance industry has over these politicians? I mean, you have people like Senator Max Baucus, who gets more money perhaps than anyone in the Senate from the health insurance, hospital, healthcare industry, and he’s head of the Senate Finance Committee. ...

WENDELL POTTER: Well, one thing to remember is that the health insurance industry has been anticipating this debate on healthcare reform for many years. They knew it was inevitable that it would come back. And they knew that if a Democrat were elected president, undoubtedly it would be on the top of the political agenda. So they’ve been positioning themselves to get very close to influential members of Congress in both parties, and Max Baucus is certainly someone they knew, a long time ago, was going to be critical for their interests. So, yes, they—the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and others in healthcare—have spent, have donated lots and lots, millions of dollars, to his campaigns over the past few years.

But aside from money, it’s relationships that count. And that’s why the insurance industry has hired scores and scores of lobbyists, many of whom have worked for members of Congress and some who are former members of Congress, to lobby on their behalf. Some of Max Baucus’s former staff members work for—in the health insurance industry as lobbyists these days. That is very important. It helps to open the door, and it enables people who are aligned with the industry, who have good associations or close associations with members of Congress, to pass along the talking points or to express the industry’s points of view.

For example, one of the companies hired a very influential lobbyist who has connections on the Democratic side. And one of the things that the industry has been doing is engaging in what’s referred to as "grasstops lobbying." And that means the top executives go to Washington and meet with members of Congress and try to persuade them, or at least make them see, that they don’t have two heads and that they’re reasonable people, and you should listen to us.... And most people can’t imagine having that kind of access or that kind of entree to the power and leadership on Capitol Hill.

AMY GOODMAN: Was that when you were working for CIGNA?

WENDELL POTTER: It was... And one of the industry’s lobbyists is Heather Podesta. Heather has her own company now. She used to be with another big firm called Blank Rome, which also is doing a significant amount of lobbying. But her husband is Tony Podesta. They are a power couple in Washington, if there ever was one. Tony is John Podesta’s brother. And they, themselves, have contributed thousands and thousands of dollars to candidates over the past several years. So, having someone like that on your team makes a huge difference in being able to get the foot in the door and to present your points of view.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about that, Tony’s brother being John Podesta, who is seminal for the shaping of Obama policy, and the people who are—most significantly, the people who are put into the Obama administration? What is your understanding of how much influence he has on his brother?

WENDELL POTTER: You know, I don’t know... But I think it would be—it’s something that I think would be appropriate for the media to take a look at it and just to do stories about the connections in Washington and how the insurance industry and others who have gained so much power and influence shape legislation, as it very likely will be shaping healthcare reform legislation this time.

AMY GOODMAN: The Washington Post recently had a piece about the nation’s healthcare industry hiring more than 350 former government officials and members of Congress to sway healthcare reform on Capitol Hill. According to lobbying records, three out of every four major healthcare companies have at least one former government insider on the payroll. Nearly half held positions under key committees and lawmakers, including Senators Max Baucus, as you mentioned, and Charles Grassley. Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, of course, which is largely steering healthcare reform. Baucus’s aides, as you mentioned, recently held a meeting with a group of lobbyists that included two of his former chiefs of staff. The Washington Post says the healthcare industry is now spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying, totaling $126 million in the first fiscal quarter... Wendell?

WENDELL POTTER: ...there’s no doubt that the money that insurance companies have to do their lobbying comes from premium income. One thing that people, I think, need to understand, that I’ve been talking about as part of my testimony, was how less and less of a person’s premium dollar is being spent actually to cover claims these days. Back when Bill Clinton was president and he and Hillary Clinton were trying to reform the healthcare system, back in 1993, 95—on the average, 95 cents of every premium dollar was being spent to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just around 80 cents. ...

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of single payer? And first, explain it, as you understand it. ...

WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, I think one of the ways for people to understand how a single-payer system works is to look at our Medicare program, which is a single-payer program. The government runs the program. So we have a very popular government-run program in this country, and have since the 1960s. And it has been—it has made enormous difference in the lives of people who are elderly and disabled. And, in fact, the satisfaction ratings of people who are enrolled in Medicare—and these are people who are elderly and disabled, who have a much greater chance of needing care than people who are younger and who are enrolled in private plans...

In Canada, their system there is called Medicare, and it is a system that essentially has taken our Medicare program and expanded it to include or be available to all their citizens. And in Canada—it’s probably the ultimate single-payer system—there are no private insurance companies that compete for business. ...
But even in a single-payer system like in Canada and our own Medicare system, the care is delivered by the private sector, by doctors and nurses who are in private practice and by private hospitals. So it is not a government takeover, as some in the industry and its allies would like us to believe. It is not a government takeover of the healthcare system, by any means. In a single-payer system, doctors and nurses and hospitals deliver the care. And people have a broad choice; they’re not restricted to certain doctors and nurses and hospitals.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you for single-payer healthcare in this country?

WENDELL POTTER: It works in Canada. ...people are much happier with their system there than Americans are here. ...if you take into consideration the people who—the number of people who are underinsured now—and that is a number that is growing because of the new health plans that are being sold, these so-called consumer-directed plans that are really high-deductible plans—when you add those people in, there are more people who are either uninsured or underinsured than the entire population of the United Kingdom. So, you know, we are at a point where some fundamental reform is absolutely necessary...

AMY GOODMAN: Should there be for-profit health insurance companies in this country?

WENDELL POTTER: You know, interesting. One of the big champions of the so-called consumer-directed plans is a woman named Regina Herzlinger. She’s a professor at Harvard... She often talks about the Swiss system as something that the US might look at as a model... They do have private insurance companies that operate there. The interesting thing is that she doesn’t mention too much, or at all, for that matter, is that while there are insurance companies that operate there, for-profit insurance companies are illegal in Switzerland, and they are very highly regulated. And they all have to offer standard benefit plans. And so, there’s nothing like the kind of system that we have here.


AMY GOODMAN: And finally, as the push for healthcare reform continues, it looks like President Obama is having a mutiny within his own party... And what advice would you give to them right now, when you have a population that’s overwhelmingly for a public plan, if not single payer, and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate?

WENDELL POTTER: I think it would be absolutely disastrous for the administration to even consider signing legislation that doesn’t include a strong public plan. ... I think many, many people voted for Barack Obama because of his healthcare platform and the things that he said he felt were vital in terms of reform. The inclusion of a public insurance plan is paramount...I would hope that people who voted for him and people who are uninsured, who are underinsured, will make sure that he understands that.



UPDATE #4:  Potter testimony before Senate.

Taken with sourcing below from Huffington Post.  Since this is a matter of "public record" (congressional testimony) no need to edit it:

Thank you Madam Speaker for the opportunity to address the House Steering and Policy Committee. Madam Speaker and Members of the Committee, my name is Wendell Potter, and I am humbled to be here today to testify about the need for meaningful and comprehensive reform and about the efforts of an industry I worked in for many years to shape reform in ways that will benefit it at the expense of taxpayers and policyholders.
In the weeks since my June 24 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I have expressed hope at every opportunity that this indeed might be the year Congress will enact legislation to reform our health care system in ways that will truly benefit Americans for generations to come.

But I have also expressed concern that 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.

H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, encompasses a comprehensive set of reforms that address the critical need for expanded coverage, lower health care costs, and greater choice and quality. Other legislative proposals, including the "Baucus Framework" being considered by the Senate Finance Committee's "Bipartisan Six," would benefit health insurance companies far more than average Americans.

The practices of the insurance industry over the past several years have contributed directly to the growing number of Americans who are uninsured and the even more rapidly growing number of people who are underinsured.

H.R. 3200 would go a long way toward making many of the standard practices of the industry illegal while providing much-needed assistance to low and moderate income Americans who cannot afford the overpriced premiums being charged by the cartel of large for-profit insurance companies that now dominate the industry.

H.R. 3200 would provide premium and cost-sharing assistance through the Health Insurance Exchange it would create. It would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a defined package of "essential health services" that all plans, public or private, would have to cover.

It also would prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or basing premiums on pre-existing conditions, gender or occupation. It would eliminate deductibles or co-pays for preventive care as well as the lifetime limits currently common in health insurance policies. The bill also would set an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses that is more reasonable than in other proposals.

As important if not more important than those market reforms, H.R. 3200 would also create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers. Contrary to the misinformation being disseminated by the health insurance industry and its allies, the public insurance option would not have a competitive advantage over private plans. It would have to meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms as private plans.

As I told Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, insurance companies routinely dump policyholders who are less profitable or who get sick as part of their never-ending quest to meet Wall Street's relentless profit expectations.

While the reforms proposed in various bills before Congress would seemingly restrict insurance companies' ability to put investors' needs over those of consumers, Members must realize that provisions of some proposals, including the Baucus Framework, would actually drive millions more Americans, including many who currently have access to comprehensive coverage, into the ranks of the underinsured.

An estimated 25 million Americans are now underinsured for two principle reasons. First, the high-deductible plans many of them have been forced into by their employers require them to pay more out of their own pockets for medical care, whether they can afford it or note. Second, more and more Americans have fallen victim to deceptive marketing practices and bought what essentially is fake insurance.

The insurance industry is insistent on being able to retain what it calls "benefit design flexibility." Those three words seem innocuous and reasonable, but if legislation that reaches the president grants insurers the flexibility they claim they must have, and requires all of us to buy coverage from them, millions more of us will have little alternative but to buy policies that appear to be affordable but which will be prove to be anything but affordable if we become seriously ill or injured.

The big insurers have spent millions of dollars acquiring companies that specialize in what they call "limited-benefit" plans. Not only are the benefits extremely limited, the underwriting criteria established by the insurers essentially guarantee big profits.

H.R. 3200 would ban the worst of these policies. Other proposals, by providing financial incentives for employers to offer barebones plans with lousy benefits and high deductibles, would actually encourage them.

Unlike H.R. 3200, those proposals would not require employers to provide good benefits or even to meet minimum benefit standards. They also would permit employers to saddle their workers with the entire amount of the premiums in addition to the high out-of-pocket expenses, escalating the already rapid shift of the financial burden of health care from insurers and employers to working men and women.

The Baucus plan also would allow insurers to charge older people and families up to 7.5 times as much and younger people, impose big fines on families that don't buy their lousy insurance, and would weaken state regulation of insurers.

As a consequence, these proposals would do little to increase affordable coverage for those currently insured, or stop the rise in medical bankruptcy. They would, however, ensure that a huge new stream of revenue--much of it from taxpayers who would finance the needed subsidies for people too poor to buy coverage on their own--would flow--"gush" might be a more appropriate word--to insurance companies. And much of that new revenue would ultimately go right into the pockets of the Wall Street investors who own them.

Over the past several weeks, I have repeatedly told audiences around the country that the public option should not just be an "option" to be bargained away at the behest of insurance companies who are pouring money into Congress to defeat substantial and essential reforms. A public option must be created to provide true choice to consumers or reform will fail to truly fix the root of the severe problems that have been caused in large part by the greedy demands of Wall Street.

By creating a strong public option and restricting the insurance industry's ability to enrich executives and investors at the expense of taxpayers and consumers, H.R. 3200 will truly benefit average Americans.

The Baucus plan, on the other hand, would create a government-subsidized monopoly for the purchase of bare-bones, high-deductible policies that would truly benefit Big Insurance. In other words, insurers would win; your constituents would lose.

It's hard to imagine how insurance companies could write legislation that would benefit them more.

Over the coming weeks, I implore each Member of Congress to put the interests of ordinary, extraordinary Americans--the people who hired you with their votes--above those of private health insurers and others who view reform as a way to make more money.

Thank you for considering my views.


Originally posted to fflambeau on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 09:31 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (230+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    Pat K California, JekyllnHyde, Alumbrados, Chi, ogre, SarahLee, iceman, Sherri in TX, eeff, x, shpilk, mataliandy, rasbobbo, Gustogirl, TravnTexas, mentaldebris, SamSinister, understandinglife, sfgb, Time Waits for no Woman, CoolOnion, Mlle Orignalmale, Cool Blue Reason, chuckvw, greenomanic, Larry Bailey, Cedwyn, wader, DeadB0y, pointsoflight, Nemagaiq, betson08, lcrp, forrest, Pohjola, barbwires, Oaktown Girl, Donna in Rome, ybruti, WV Democrat, WisVoter, jcrit, valadon, Josiah Bartlett, rmx2630, Julie Gulden, Big Tex, rapala, nailbender, joanneleon, bloomer 101, radarlady, 3goldens, salmo, DianeNYS, David R, CTPatriot, socks, LostInTexas, PBen, beerm, MT Spaces, david78209, YucatanMan, kldave, NeuvoLiberal, Pam from Calif, truebeliever, GreyHawk, Ice Blue, blue jersey mom, FightTheFuture, northanger, Spathiphyllum, Ekaterin, accio, Grassee, Mother Mags, Shirl In Idaho, MissInformation, BalanceSeeker, Orinoco, vigilant meerkat, Prognosticator, ccmask, yojimbo, blueoasis, Alexandra Lynch, Libby Shaw, imabluemerkin, FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph, armadillo, Demena, pfeffermuse, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Cassiodorus, means are the ends, kurt, louavul, markthshark, One Pissed Off Liberal, JohnnySacks, FlamingoGrrl, dotsright, khereva, Loudoun County Dem, tgypsy, FWIW, possum, gloriana, la urracca, Jimdotz, DWG, RosyFinch, HCKAD, jgtidd, stratocasterman, second gen, vbdietz, Moderation, yella dawg, TomP, VA Breeze, fayeforcure, Dem in the heart of Texas, The Bagof Health and Politics, Phil N DeBlanc, OleHippieChick, Youffraita, SmedleyButlerUSMC, elwior, golconda2, ajr111240, Lujane, TH Seed, Jake Williams, mofembot, S C B, TexanJane, A Man Called Gloom, allie123, priceman, Quilldriver, Mayfly, Presumptuous Insect, Fiddlegirl, maggiejean, SciMathGuy, prettygirlxoxoxo, Pris from LA, Bule Betawi, number nine dream, denisegreenbay, DeepLooker, aufklaerer, litoralis, greengemini, post rational, banjolele, Carol in San Antonio, ryan81, dark daze, notrouble, earicicle, mkor7, CamillesDad1, wmdrpa, AvoMonster, glitterlust, allep10, SnowItch, northernlights, loveendures, deviant24x, Lazar, Bobs Telecaster, swaminathan, Pebbles, barkworsethanbite, estreya, jethrock, green minute, fidellio, TheWesternSun, on board 47, RJP9999, gulfgal98, paradise50, Puddytat, krickel, jawboneblues, Texnance, Actbriniel, Nathan45, LoCo Liberal, gnarlstone, ozsea1, gauchiste, vahana, Massapequa Dem, soothsayer99, FarWestGirl, Situational Lefty, Sand Hill Crane, marksmyword, Ms Bluezone, Veeajera, marleycat, good grief, Cinnamon Rollover, gater2112, Laurie Gator, junipercussion, Grandma Susie, MRA NY, createpeace, worldlotus, yaque, MinistryOfTruth, beforedawn, Marihilda, lincoln deschain, Amaryliss, bluck, KingofSpades, Willa Rogers, Regina in a Sears Kit House, Tom Seaview, livingthedream, Pinto Pony
    Hidden by:

    "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

    by fflambeau on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 09:31:16 PM PDT

  •  This Diary needs to be emailed (21+ / 0-)

    This diary needs to be emailed to every single congressman and senate who won't back the public option and remind them that WE WILL NOT FORGET them voting against the PO. This is absolutely appalling!!

  •  Here's the link again (11+ / 0-)

    When I cut-n-pasted it I got a Page Not Found error.

  •  PBS posts the transcripts of Moyers' Journal. (9+ / 0-)
    for those who can't watch video on teh tubes.  
    I'm not savvy enough to clip the video

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:20:58 PM PDT

  •  Weren't the salaries (11+ / 0-)

    of any CEO's of the big ins. co's. supposed to be published on Tues 8th Sept.? Don't remember seeing anything.

    Would like to see pictures of all their big houses published a la McCain.

    That might give a few 'baggers' pause for thought. Oh wait, thought, silly me.

    •  They won't care. That's capitalism at it's finest (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Situational Lefty, Veeajera, AnnetteK

      We just can't let our ELECTED folks make that kind of money.  The ones who are making money off of our pain and suffering? That's A-OK!

      Beware the lollipop of mediocrity: lick it once and suck forever.

      by second gen on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:59:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not completely true. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, Pris from LA, AnnetteK

        I have poor relatives who may/may not vote but who lean republican in their thinking process.  

        It would do them a world of good to actually see who is pushing the misinformation.  They don't trust extremely rich people anyway.

        It wouldn't reach everyone but there are some who it WOULD reach.

        Nobody held a wake for America's manufacturing industry, and now we are supposed to give a fuck about these assholes in the insurance business? - Playon

        by blueocean on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 12:11:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Won't get air time (4+ / 0-)

      Big insurance virtually owns Congress and the media, too.  It's also not one of those things that they think makes for "good teevee" like 2 shills screaming talking points at each other.

      The guy who runs United Health Care makes $100 million per year.  That's obscene, but the baggers are out there defending his right to take their money, put in his his pocket, and kick them in the ass.  Why, oh why, do people defend the Pay or Die System - it's extortion.

      Those who yell do so because their arguments are so weak they can only be supported by massive amounts of hot air. Sue, West Allis, Wisconsin

      by Puddytat on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 12:03:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Almost every sentence in this interview is a (16+ / 0-)

    scathing indictment from someone who knows the system, from someone who was part of the architecture. Let's see Hannity and Limbaugh go toe to toe with him and the facts, not their invented socialist fear-mongering. I've seen Potter on PBS and Rachel several times, very impressive. Here's one of many zingers:

    And people unwillingly and unknowingly have become pawns and advocates and spokespeople for the industry. And they don't even know it.

    Like those 1.5 million (cough) people in DC yesterday.

    stay together / learn the flowers / go light - Gary Snyder

    by Mother Mags on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:31:37 PM PDT

    •  You mean on Saturday. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mother Mags

      The "good guys" marched yesterday. You wouldn't know it from the dearth of official coverage, but there was a march for health care reform yesterday. The Teabaggers were there on 9/12.

      The next Single Payer Happy Hour is 9/25/2009.
      "RTLM in Rwanda was totally Fox News." -- a survivor

      by Pris from LA on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 09:04:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This was great. (7+ / 0-)

    However, we actually could benefit if Mr. Potter were able to say even more.  I'm not trying to be greedy here but the truth is most people don't understand what the various terms being discussed actually mean.

    Mr. Potter could explain the importance of the public option along with its pros and cons.

    He could explain to us why a trigger is or isn't a good idea.  

    I'd certainly love to hear more on his view that pre-existing conditions exclusions won't hold.  I can't emphasize enough how important it is for us to understand this if it is indeed still an issue that hasn't been pinned down.

    I'd love to see Mr. Potter sit down with Mr. Trumpka for an hour or two.  I'm worried that we aren't seeing enough from our unions and I don't know if they are being fed bad information right now.

    Nobody held a wake for America's manufacturing industry, and now we are supposed to give a fuck about these assholes in the insurance business? - Playon

    by blueocean on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:38:31 PM PDT

  •  I saw this man on Moyer's show. (15+ / 0-)

    It was an excellent interview. They showed video clips of those doctors and health care workers that were giving care to poor Americans. We might call them hidden Americans, because without people like Moyers, most of us would never know these things are going on in this country. It is amazing how well the MSM is at whitewashing everything.

    Of course he is right that without the public option, we have no real reform. And I don't know if the Dems realize that the mandate they are planning will kill them politically. In this case, the right thing to do is also the politically advantageous thing to do.

    "So here's us, on the raggedy edge" - Mal Reynolds -8.88, -7.90

    by Presumptuous Insect on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:41:24 PM PDT

  •  If we had responsible journalists (12+ / 0-)

    in the MSM, this would be covered extensively and follow-up would be done.  There is no investigative journalism anymore.  For the same reason mentioned in this diary (huge corporations own everything).

    "Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives." -Paul Wellstone

    by maggiejean on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:44:40 PM PDT

  •  So just give up? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisVoter, Cassiodorus, Pris from LA, raf

    CT: But this spring, health insurance executives promised to do away with pre-existing condition exclusions.

    Potter: Empty rhetoric. That is the part of the PR campaign that they want you to see. The charm offensive. You'll see some executives on TV and read their quotes in newspapers. You'll hear them testify in Congress and promise (President) Obama they will work to help achieve reform.

    So when reform advocates talk about ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, ending rescission, removing benefit caps, and forcing insurers to cover everyone, it's just "empty rhetoric". Might as well give up. It's all empty rhetoric. Just give up.

    If you don't think politicians are going to actually enact meaningful reform in these areas and reform these insurance practices, why do you have ANY faith in their ability to create a strong public option?

    This is what I hear from progressives now. They refuse to believe Congress will create any meaningful regulations of the insurance industry, but somehow they entrust this same Congress with the ability to create a meaningful public option. That is not a consistent set of beliefs. If Congress is not going to regulate the insurance industry at all in this bill, why would they create a public option that had ANY power whatsoever.

    This whole diary is just a big dose of defeatism. I don't see anything helpful about it. All this diary does is tell you why health reform is going to fail.

    •  Where does the diarist say to give up?? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, 3goldens, khereva, earicicle, blueocean

      I take this as a strong encouragement for action; indeed I don't see how it could be construed otherwise.

      "So here's us, on the raggedy edge" - Mal Reynolds -8.88, -7.90

      by Presumptuous Insect on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:51:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Methinks the diary is designed... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3goldens, elwior, earicicle, blueocean

      to motivate us to fight.

      I appreciate your comments, though.

      So when reform advocates talk about ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, ending rescission, removing benefit caps, and forcing insurers to cover everyone, it's just "empty rhetoric".

      You summarize the gist of the diary in one pithy statement. I was wavering somewhat on the need for a public option, but this diary brings the need into sharp focus.

    •  I have no faith in Congress' ability -- (12+ / 0-)

      to do anything.  This is why I act.

      If Congress is not going to regulate the insurance industry at all in this bill, why would they create a public option that had ANY power whatsoever.

      They don't, and they haven't.  We must force them to do it.

      "We're only particles of change I know, I know/ Orbiting around the sun" -- Joni Mitchell

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:03:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You've got it all wrong, FreeStateDem (8+ / 0-)

      You wrote:  

      So when reform advocates talk about ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, ending rescission, removing benefit caps, and forcing insurers to cover everyone, it's just "empty rhetoric". Might as well give up. It's all empty rhetoric. Just give up.

      You and I have had a major discussion on this (people who want to read it can look at my last diary and FreeState's comments).  What you fail to realize is that anyone can make promises.  If you keep the same insurance-based system, you're always going to have the same problems.  I went point by point through Obama's promises (including payment for certain exams) and showed why the promises, legally speaking, ARE COMPLETELY MEANINGLESS.  You are mistaking a politicians nice-sounding political words for what will actually happen in insurance contracts.  

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:05:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You don't have a bill (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and you are parsing words from a speech. You have no idea how strong the insurance regulations will be in the bill, but you assume the worst because you think industry will write the rules. Well, if you believe that, and you want me to believe it, WHY SHOULD I THINK THAT SAME INDUSTRY WON'T SET UP THE PUBLIC OPTION ALSO? Why should I think they won't also write the rules for how the public option will be set up? Why work for a public option or for insurance reform at all if that is how it is going to be?

        That's why what I think you are doing is defeatism.

        •  um.... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Unduna, fflambeau

          my understanding is that the insurance companies have already greatly constrained the public option. First of all, by making it an option, rather than us starting from single payer.

          Second, regulation.  You mean like how regulations performed under the Bush/Cheney regime?  With gutted agencies unable to perform their functions to any adequate degree?  THAT is why I have a problem with regulations.  And the people with the money (corporations) seem to have undue influence over not only the regulations, but how well they wind up getting enforced.

          When will we ever learn that PROFIT cannot be a part of the equation when endangering people's lives adds to a company's bottom line?--Earicicle

          by billlaurelMD on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 10:19:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  These regulations can have loopholes&are overturn (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      earicicle, sixthestate

      ed. What will cement these regulations to prevent future presidents, say from the Republican Party or an even more corporate friendly future Democratic president, from weakening or completely eliminating the regulations Obama wants to put in place now? There's a major conflict of interest here. The insurance companies want to maximize profits, they can donate heavily to both parties, lobby both parties, and can run all sorts of propaganda campaigns to sway public opinion. They will not let these regulations stand without a fight, though I'm sure they're playing nice atm to prevent a real "public option", or Medicare for all, or a single payer system.

      "All [US govt model based countries], without exception, have succumbed to the nightmare [of breakdown] one time or another, often repeatedly." - Bruce Ackerman

      by PoxOnYou on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 12:17:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even though they're promised major subsidies (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Silverbird, earicicle, sixthestate

        from the govt using our money to make up for the projected loss profit of covering people with pre-existing conditions, etc., I'm sure they'll still be looking for ways to make more profit.

        "All [US govt model based countries], without exception, have succumbed to the nightmare [of breakdown] one time or another, often repeatedly." - Bruce Ackerman

        by PoxOnYou on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 12:20:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wall Street, health care and our banking (15+ / 0-)

    system are all so corrupt.  I just can't imagine how people can do these things....what happened to our character, our sense of right and wrong.  I really have trouble imagining being involved in any of this...what kind of human being would you have to be to allow yourself to be involved in causing this kind of suffering for another human being.

  •  This is scathing. (10+ / 0-)

    And more than a little depressing.

    I share President Obama's desire to be open to a variety of ideas and solutions and to get something passed. And I know some other countries have better systems than we do without a "public option."

    Yet I find it difficult to believe we can regulate the insurance industry enough (and enforce the regulations) to achieve the results we need without a public option.

    As another poster said, this is discouraging but also motivating.

  •  The Insurance Industry: their bottom line's often (10+ / 0-)

    6 feet under.

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

    by nailbender on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 10:55:31 PM PDT

  •  In other words -- (13+ / 0-)

    The insurance companies will "persuade" Congress to put loopholes in the final bills so that promises of "no recission" and "no denial of insurance to those with pre-existing conditions" will be emptied of content.

    In the end, we will be obliged to buy junk insurance, or keep the junk insurance our employers have purchased for us.  Maybe those of us with decent insurance will continue to have it.  Maybe subsidies will cover our payments, unless they are made subject to a previous Obama suggestion that the plan be "revenue-neutral."  HR 3200, as currently written, is rather distant from revenue-neutrality.  One thing we can count on is that lots of subsidy will go to the insurance companies themselves.

    "Health insurance reform" is part of the overall trend of consolidation in the insurance industry, then.  This would explain why the public option is so close to being on its deathbed.

    "We're only particles of change I know, I know/ Orbiting around the sun" -- Joni Mitchell

    by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:00:21 PM PDT

  •  And President Obama has scheduled.... (15+ / 0-)

    ...a meeting with Mr. Potter for when?

    •  Why would he schedule a meeting (0+ / 0-)

      with Potter. Potter has no interest in any reform. All he is doing is telling President that he sucks and all is lost. Why waste time with someone like Potter?

      •  Raf, I think you've got to concede that Potter (13+ / 0-)

        knows a hell of a lot more about insurance than you do.  

        "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

        by fflambeau on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:30:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How many Congressional (0+ / 0-)

          votes does he have? Where was he for all these years? Hell, where was he for last 8 years when Bush was fucking up? He took the money then and now that there is a genuine healthcare reform on the table I am supposed to be impressed that Mr. Potter has found religion. Just in time to defeat the reform from the left? He is as authentic as a 7 dollar bill.

          •  You didn't answer my question, Raf (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Turkana, poxonyou, elwior, SnowItch

            Potter has more experience and expertise with insurance than you do, does he not?

            "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

            by fflambeau on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:39:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Your comment might have some weight with me (6+ / 0-)

            If I hadn't spent several years in the industry myself.  As it is I know how off base your are.  

            Mr. Potter is speaking the truth in several areas.  I recognize his words as being complete truth on several subjects.

            I'm not certain about his claim regarding the pre-existing claims exclusions and I'm extremely worried about his claim.  If there is "truth" to it then we are in worse shape than even I realized.

            Just as an FYI, I voted for Obama.  I want nothing more than to see him succeed.  I need for him to do the right thing with health insurance reform so that I can support him again in 2012.

            I'm trying to be reasonable.  I know that we can't get everything on the first go around.  We also can't settle for really bad reform.  It will cost us dearly in a few short years if we do.  

            Nobody held a wake for America's manufacturing industry, and now we are supposed to give a fuck about these assholes in the insurance business? - Playon

            by blueocean on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 12:43:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What's his endgame? (0+ / 0-)

              I know healthcare system is fucked up so how come he worked in the industry for decades and only came to this realization in 2007 just when healthcare became a big issue in Democratic primaries and a Democratic Presidency became inevitable?

            •  Owners of HC Insurance Cos.... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Silverbird, 3goldens



              Wall Street Banks hold these percentages of shares in Health Insurance giants and are increasing shares by the tens of millions

              United                         77.32%
              WellPoint                      79.04%
              Aetna                          79.45%
              CIGNA Corp.                    68.71%
              Coventry Health                82.25%
              Health Net Inc.                79.37%

              Wall Street is the enemy. Can we afford another bailout for these people and their bonus structure!

    •  That meeting, drawingporno, is to follow Obama's (7+ / 0-)

      meeting with progressives.  Meaning: never.

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:38:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Awesome diary. And Wendell, if you're in Seattle, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, fflambeau

    you're welcome to crash at my place.   I have no sofa, but we'd make do.
    Plus - I'm welcoming to anyone from Madison that might help reconstruct recipes from Himal Chuli...

    "Töten Sie! Töten Sie! Töten Sie!" - der Schwarze Adler, The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, Philip José Farmer

    by yojimbo on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:19:55 PM PDT

  •  Great diary. Yes! Focus on the INSURED not (8+ / 0-)

    the uninsured.  People need to realize just what an the illusion their policy is.  

    If you calculate your co-pays and max out of pocket deductibles, you often are paying for your basic health coverage on your own. That makes those nice "premiums" gravy for them.  But when you get sick, and they decide to cut and run (recission) is when you find out exactly what you DON'T have.

    Too many people are hollering about "paying" for the uninsured (except they already are, in their premiums).  

    That lets the "industry" make this an us vs. them argument.  

    Too many people say they like what they have.  If they only knew.

    THAT, my friend, is what reformers should really be talking about.    

    Next time I tell you someone from Texas should NOT be president of the United States, please pay attention. In Memory of Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

    by truebeliever on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:44:02 PM PDT

    •  I have a high deductible policy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truebeliever, fflambeau

      and my insurance company has not paid out anything on my medical bills in the last two years.  Every dime I paid for insurance went somewhere else, because I was (thankfully) healthy and spent less than $600.00 on my medical bills.  For the privilege of being allowed to pay the discounted amount that an insuance company negotiated to pay, it costs me $6,000 a year in addition to the $5000 deductible (for a family).

      A few years ago I figured that I had spent approximately $120,000 on health insurance in my life and they had to cover about $25,000 in medical expenses for me.  What a deal for them.  I would have been better off putting that money in savings and paying for my own health care needs. the elites...actually believe that society can be destroyed by anyone except those who lead them? - John Ralston Saul -

      by Silverbird on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 09:27:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's why the insurers are afraid of a real (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        public option, and that's unfortunately why Obama is pushing an insurance based system.  Politicians get a cut of the money that goes to the insurance companies.  

        "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

        by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 04:16:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed. I am remarried, but while I was a single (0+ / 0-)

        mom, I couldn't afford COBRA when I was laid off.  Because we rarely get sick, I took my chances & just got "catastrophic" which covered in case we were hospitalized. My payments were $250 a month, and I paid cash for our doctor visits and skipped the dentist.  I saved enough to buy a nearly new (2 yr old) beautiful family van CASH. (Of course who know if the "catastrophic" guys would have paid if we really got sick)

        So fast forward.  I am remarried, 6 years now.  My husband has "good" insurance (his company employs 5000 people). We pay $7000 in premiums per year and his employer pays $7000 (at least).  That's $14,000 a year, x 6 yrs = $84,000  

        There are 5 in our family (3 semi grown boys, 15-19-21, all still in school)  And NO ONE GETS SICK. NO ONE TAKES MEDICINE.  I hadn't even gone to the doctor for a check up for almost 3 years. Our occasional doctor visit is mostly paid out of pocket as our $250 "deductible".  When I think about it - we are paying for pretty much everything, and they get all the gravy.

        So you get my point.  And when my middle son did get hospitalized for a skate board accident, you'd think they would cover it, but NO.  I had to pay $3000 out of pocket for less than 18 hours!  And as I said, the "bill" from the "non-profit" hospital was $31,000 friggen dollars. In addition to the $7000 we already paid.

        So yeah, this is all a huge racket.  HUGE.

        It's literally sickening. If we can't get single-payer, at least we absolutely need a public option.

        Next time I tell you someone from Texas should NOT be president of the United States, please pay attention. In Memory of Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

        by truebeliever on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 08:39:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And yes, yes. Wendell Potter you rock! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, earicicle, blueocean

    Angels come in all forms.

    Thank you.

    Next time I tell you someone from Texas should NOT be president of the United States, please pay attention. In Memory of Molly Ivins, 1944-2007

    by truebeliever on Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 11:45:05 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for putting all of this together (5+ / 0-) one place. This diary is getting forwarded to everyone I know.

    If they would stop trying to frame the debate in negative terms -- "We won't kill your baby, we won't shoot granny out of a cannon, we aren't going to tattoo a hammer and sickle on your forehead" -- and start talking about what increased competitive will do for people with insurance and a public option will do for people without insurance, and how these insurance companies are morally  far worse than Lehman Brothers or AIG and deserve to be taken down a few notches, maybe it would cut through some of the bullshit. Tell people that the health insurance companies were taking pages from the tobacco companies to torpedo reform. These things needs to get out there, and hopefully there will be many more like Wendell Potter who would be willing to expose these disgraceful companies once the tide of public opinion started turning against them.

  •  fflambeau I am still confused -- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    about how people could be screwed by their insurance companies under the provisions of HR 3200.  It seems like the government is supposed to step in and take care of all financial shortfalls.  Could you give a hypothetical example?

    "We're only particles of change I know, I know/ Orbiting around the sun" -- Joni Mitchell

    by Cassiodorus on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 12:34:42 AM PDT

    •  Cassiodorus, I don't have the text of HR 3200 (10+ / 0-)

      before me, but let me give you some examples of the problems found in Obama's speech.  The overall problem is that Obama is a politician making a political speech but when it comes to actual insurance, the devil is in the details.

      Here are some specifics (sorry for the length of the post):

      1.  Obama did say:

      "Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition."

      Those are his exact words as reported by the New York Times which has a transcript up for his speech.  BUT I am a lawyer and Obama is a lawyer so excuse me if I ask:  where are the PENALTIES?  Lot's of things can be against the law, jaywalking is against the law, but unless there are very, very high and costly penalties and fines involved (with possible loss of insurance license as a pentultimate step) then this is really meaningless talk.  

      Potter seems to doubt that insurance companies will "change their stripes".  He's right.  The insurance companies--who had so much influence in putting the Obama plan together behind closed doors--are going to stop their practices?  The exact same thing has occurred in the banking industry.  We have bailed out major banks with trillions of dollars but guess what:  not much if anything has changed in oversight and regulation. In short, these are nice words to gull people.

      1.  Here are Obama's EXACT words as reported by the NYTIMES on Obama's promises about dropping coverage:  

      "As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most."

      Once again these words (especially to a layman) might appear nice.  But once again, what does "against the law" mean?  A $100 fine, a $1,000 fine? Neither are much for CIGNA and other insurers.  And what does "drop your coverage" mean?  Would a denial of a claim constitute dropping coverage?  Probably not but that is exactly what an insurance company might very well do.  What does "when you get sick" mean or "water down" mean?  These terms are vital in a contract (and I have taught contract law).  If you don't believe me, have a look at your or someone else's insurance or automobile contract.  It will have pages of definitions in technical language that even many lawyers who do not specialize in the field do not understand.  Again, the devil is in the details.  Any competent insurance lawyer could drive a Mack truck through these words that appear so nice when a politician states them in soaring rhetoric.  

      1.  Obama's exact words:

      They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.

      NOTICE the "THEY WILL NO LONGER".  Notice the language here has changed from "it will be against the law".  Why?  This language is very ambigious and vague especially in legal terms. Nor is their a time frame here for the "when".  And what is an "arbitrary cap":  again no definition.  No details, so it is really meaningless.  Note also the language talks about "a given year" or a "lifetime" but it does not define anything here.  You may think I'm just parsing words but words are vital in law, and especially contract law which is what insurance policies are.

      1.   Here are Obama's exact words again:

      We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.

      Sorry, Tonto, but who is the "We" here?  The Government, the insurance companies, an oversight Board, Max Baucus's committee?  It's important because if there is a dispute, who hears and settles the dispute?  What rights of appeal are there?  Who pays for the lawyers?  Are penalties involved (none talked about here)?  What are "out-of-pocket expenses" and what will the "limit" be?  Note the "no one should go broke because they get sick" is nothing but political pap.  Once again, the devil is in the details and there are no details provided here at all, and significantly NO TALK AGAIN about any civil penalties for insurance carriers should they breach these terms.  By the way, there's no talk here at all of criminal penalties. No discussion either of who's going to have jurisdiction over disputes here.  State courts?  Federal courts?  Special courts?  No information given.  Stay tuned.  Expect the worst!  Any competent lawyer could drive a convoy of Mack trucks through this language.  If you don't believe me compare these vagaries with the very precise (and well-defined terms) in any insurance policies you hold.

      1.  Exact language again from Obama in his speech:

      And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies –because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse.

      Sorry, but vagueness again.  "And insurance companies":  does that mean ALL insurance companies (and if so, why isn't that spelled out)?  What does "required to cover, with no extra charge" mean?  Does it mean all insurance companies under this plan MUST UNDER PENALTY pay ALL the costs of such tests?  If so, why not say so?  What will the penalties be?  Note too that only two examples are given:  mammograms and colonoscopies.  Does this apply to dental work?  To dental exams?  To eye exams?  To ear exams?  To general (first time) exams? To pap smears? To abortions (and will there be different terms for abortions caused by rape?)?  Will x-rays and special diagnostic tests be covered and paid in full?  Will lab test be covered and if so, will they be paid in full?  Very, very vague and if the insurance companies have to pay for all this, they'll go broke or the premiums will be so high no one will be able to afford them.  See an earlier diary of mine that has a Congressional Budget Office analysis of this saying it just won't work!

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 01:03:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Excellent questions (5+ / 0-)

        [W]here are the PENALTIES?

        [W]hat does "against the law" mean?  A $100 fine, a $1,000 fine?

        [W]ho is the "We" here?

        Devil is in the details.

        Any competent lawyer could drive a convoy of Mack trucks through this language.

        LOL, looks to me like you just did. Your comment should be expanded into another diary in itself: this perspective on Obama's speech is very good.

        •  Thanks CJnyc and I have thought (4+ / 0-)

          about doing another diary on just that subject. I still may because it is so important.  Lot's of listeners/viewers of the speech got gulled because they are not aware of the vagueness of the language used and how they are being tricked.  

          It first occurred to me when a poster at another diary of mine said "he had heard another speech by Obama than the one I referenced."  It then occurred to me that he had.  If someone is untrained in the law or in rhetoric, they are not used to picking up on the nuances of language and how it must be used precisely.  Lofty phrases and ambigious wording just do not make it when they are applied to insurance policies (and insurance policies involve contract law).  

          "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

          by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 02:28:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  fflambeau, I concerned about your timing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lookit, blueocean

    with this post.  BUT, the information is spot on.

    Except for?:  

    "Remember a certain politician who recently spoke to the nation and promised to do away with "pre-existing conditions exclusions"?"

    I'm assuming in the above quote, you are talking about Obama.  Yes?

    On Wednesday Obama said it would be "illegal" to refuse pre-existing conditions. It was specific. It's clear. It's been talked about.

    Your other streams/links/interviews are from July (unless I missed some).  We've soooo jumped the curb since then.

    Personally, I don't fee comfortable with this diary. Although Potter's info is spot on, the intw's seem to be from the past, before Obama set the record straight again.

    I've seen him on CNN, Rachel a few times in August.

    If I'm wrong, please explain.

    •  Boredwitnuts, see my lengthy reply to (4+ / 0-)

      Cassiodorus just above for a discussion of why the promise of making it "illegal" to deny coverage on preexisting conditions is pretty meaningless.  

      In insurance policies, and contract law which is what insurance policies are all about, the devil is in the details.  Any competent lawyer could drive a convoy of Mack trucks through the promises that Obama made with regard to health care reform.  

      Insurance companies have (and will continue to have) very good lawyers under the Obama approach.

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 01:06:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand (0+ / 0-)

        So you being a lawyer, the President being a constitutional lawyer, why wouldn't he put the penalties in the bill?

        We haven't seen legislation yet.  Do we not trust that he will? Do we not have faith that he will?  Did you see 60 min tonight?  He is owning this, big time.

        That's why there will be a public option, without a doubt from me.

        Please don't get me wrong, I will still do everything I can to make sure we get healthcare reform. But at some point I have to trust, have faith in what's to come.  I can't get twisted up in NOT believing anything he says right now.

        There will be a public option. PO's are more efficient and simpler than applying regulations.

        I want to have this conversation once the legislation is written.  Then I would sound the alarm.

        •  boredwitnuts you wrote (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FightTheFuture, khereva, Nespolo

          You wrote:  "But at some point I have to trust, have faith in what's to come."

          Didn't someone promise you not too long ago that all debates on public health reform would be held in public and they would be televised live on C-SPAN?  What happened with that?

          And what happened with the promises on FISA, on renegotiating NAFA, on not hiring lobbyists in the administration, about keeping the most open administration in history (WH log books still not open to show which insurance people talked with Obama in secret and this step has been taken only after law suits against the administrtion), to promises on DADT, DOMA, just to name a few of the promises broken in the last few months.

          And you want to believe in more?  Belief is for religious systems, believe in politicians at your own peril.  

          "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

          by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 02:19:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Again (0+ / 0-)

            I understand.  But why do we think that in 8 months HE can change what Bush,Clinton,Reagan,Congress did?

            Is it CHANGE everything NOW or he has failed us?  I can't jump on that wagon.  And maybe you're not suggesting that.

            But belief is not only for religious systems. Those systems are based on faith, which I have too.

            This country is a mess.  I have to believe that he will STILL do what he says.  It may not be on the timeframe we want, which seems to be NOW, NOW.

            Do we expect the special interests, including congress and senate, who have crystallized the mess we are in for over 40+ years, to be changed in 8 months.  That's not realistic. The Prez has done more in 8 mths than most pres. has done in their terms.

            I'm willing to do my part to help.  I'm holding his feet to the fire but I'm also aware of what he's up against.

            I don't want to just fight the WH.  I want to fight everyone that presents obstacles for progress.  

            And that is a long list.

    •  Boredwitnuts, the Cap Times Interview (0+ / 0-)

      that this diary begins with is published on line in todays Cap Times.  

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 01:08:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kudos to Wendell Potter; honest unlike some here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, CTPatriot, Orinoco

    He's being more honest than some people who post here and adds some key points.(These people just happen to work in some form if insurance though I won't call anyone out but I'm sure some people will know what I'm talking about) I find that there are too many here trying to defend a flawed system and lie with statistics like Wendell Potter talks about as if our health care costs being as high as they are are some exogenous phenomena unrelated to the flawed structure of our for profit system. As smart as some people like Ezra Klein are, he doesn't get it that every system where private insurance works, there are regulations against profits:

    WENDELL POTTER: You know, interesting. One of the big champions of the so-called consumer-directed plans is a woman named Regina Herzlinger. She’s a professor at Harvard and is kind of considered the guru of consumer-directed plans. She often talks about the Swiss system as something that the US might look at as a model, because they presumably have something like a consumer-directed care there. They do have private insurance companies that operate there. The interesting thing is that she doesn’t mention too much, or at all, for that matter, is that while there are insurance companies that operate there, for-profit insurance companies are illegal in Switzerland, and they are very highly regulated. And they all have to offer standard benefit plans. And so, there’s nothing like the kind of system that we have here.

    It's interesting; every time there portends to be a wonky analysis here by someone claiming we don't need a public option and referencing Swiss systems, they fail to mention we have nothing like that here like Wendell Potter who is honest about how our for profit system probably shouldn't and couldn't exist.

    Everyone else here who tries to gloss over the lost wealth insurance companies lost with people's premiums while portraying their profits minus that wealth as if profits aren't a significant addition to costs is funding the truth. Sure providers are also expensive and their fee for service, but because of their hierarchy in collusion with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry, they are flawed by for profit design and are built on a wasteful structure of collection departments and wasteful administrative costs involving paperwork however someone wants to make excuses for it.

    I'm starting to realize that someone in any kind of insurance industry that posts here automatically deserves scrutiny, because they probably have read the same book Wendell Potter read. He's now being honest and they are not as they try to make excuses about the role of insurance companies and try to slander the low administrative costs of Medicare in comparison.

    WENDELL POTTER: Two or three things. I think insurance companies and, well, anyone can—one of my favorite textbooks when I was in college was How to Lie with Statistics, and I think that we in PR often will throw statistics out that are true to a certain extent but are also misleading and don’t disclose the full story. That is what, more often than not, was what I was doing. I don’t recall intentionally or knowingly lying to a reporter; I wouldn’t have done that. But I think there are times when by withholding all the information or providing selective information or data, you definitely are misleading. And that’s what I did more often than not.

    Wendell Potter cares now that he has seen the light about people and real reform more than making excuses for his industry. Beware of posters using the excessive costs our for profit system has accumulated to claim and pretend activists for the public option "don't get it"(Please support my industry instead) and some of them ridiculously claim that even if we went to Medicare for All, gosh our system is just so expensive it wouldn't work. this is stupid BS and it makes me sick seeing that kind of garbage on this site.

    Wendell Potter is right' we need a public option however weak so we can build on it and ultimately we need Medicare for All no matter who loves their insurance jobs or not. people are suffering and need reform, not junk insurance backed with lies backed with flaw statistics.

    Great diary.

    Pro Life??? Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers!- George Carlin

    by priceman on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 01:21:41 AM PDT

  •  Thank you. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evilpenguin, earicicle, fflambeau

    It took a long time to read thru it, but it was worth every minute.

    I saw Mr Potter on Bill Moyers, & then saw his Congressional testimony.

    I forgive him all his prior transgressions b/c his fit of conscience has given us a voice from the inside to push for an end to the practices of the immoral health "care" industrial complex.

    Kudos to Mr. Potter.


    The currents of the mind, in the shape of a heart... citisven

    by x on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 01:22:12 AM PDT

    •  I have worked in the belly of that beast (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TravnTexas, Silverbird

      I have worked for two Minnesota based healthcare finance companies. One, a non-profit, one, a for-profit. Both have issues. (This was back in the early 1990's).

      I won't defend the current state of health care, and in particular, of health care finance. It is a mess. What I will say in modest defense of those insurance companies, they are obligated to act the way they do (the for-profit ones). Even the non-profits are forced to limit risk and this means most of the same shenanigans.

      The best company I worked for genuine tried to cover everybody on their rolls for everything. But they had to implement the in-network rules, the pre-existing condition rules, the required approval rules, and so forth because they can't pay for anyone's care if they RUN OUT OF MONEY.

      The for-profit company paid its CEO the highest CEO pay in the state. And they fought tooth and nail against the Clinton reforms.

      I guess all I am saying is that the label "immoral" implies a moral choice is being made. When the system criminally punishes you for acting in the interest of the insured over a shareholder, there is a reason the system stinks.

      For the record, I personally support single-payer national health. And I get furious when the opponents of reform trot out the regular strawman arguments of "government bureaucrats" (as if insurance company bureaucrats were SO much better) and "rationing care" when it is happening right now.

      I've said this before, but I think it is important. I had a procedure under a local that took a while and the doctor and I chatted a bit about health care finance. I said that I saw only two paths out: The radical free-market path (eliminate insurance, allow unlimited untaxed health care savings, and patients pay straight fee-for-service) and the radical socialist path (single payer national health). My doctor considered and he said "I have no problem with single payer per se, but I don't think you can have a free market in health care because one side has all the knowledge. Can a patient, even an informed, educated one, really negotiate on treatment? Our training is so extensive and specialized that we basically control all the important information."

      I think he hit the problem with the free market approach right on the head. I have since seen this described as a standard problem in economics. It is generally held that a market with strong information asymmetry cannot function as a free market and that this is a long established and well understood principle in economics. And you don't hear much about it in the reform debate, do you? I wonder why that is...

  •  Excellent diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Regina in a Sears Kit House

    Thank you.

    Language is wine upon the lips. -Virginia Woolf

    by valadon on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 01:57:20 AM PDT

  •  Wall Street owns the Insurance Cos. (4+ / 0-)

    as Cornsyrupawareness puts it:

    that's a fantastic point and one that needs to be mentioned with every breath by public option supporters. Just like John McCain=George Bush we need to wed the ideas of Private Insurance=Wall Street.. or the Current System=Wall Street or.. Mandate-Public Option=Wall Street Bailout#2. Wall Street's poll numbers have to be somewhere near Cheney's.

    Wall Street Banks hold these percentages of shares in Health Insurance giants and are increasing shares by the tens of millions

    United                         77.32%
    WellPoint                      79.04%
    Aetna                          79.45%
    CIGNA Corp.                    68.71%
    Coventry Health                82.25%
    Health Net Inc.                79.37%

    To the people who ruined our country, we give you our health

    I don't want Goldman Sachs between me and my doctor!

    by JerichoJ8 on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 02:26:46 AM PDT

    •  Wall St. Also Owns Obama (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, Silverbird, evilpenguin, fflambeau

      A painful, bitter pill to swallow for so many at this site.  But a fact, nevertheless.  

      Obama never was a progressive.  Nor is he  a populist, although he campaigned as one.  

      And the sooner we really accept that, at a core level, the sooner we'll realize that we need to get beyond his soaring rhetoric and take as best we can power into our own hands.   No waiting for "our leaders" to deliver us.

      "World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed." MLK

      by SmedleyButlerUSMC on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 05:29:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We are still important (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I can't deny the truth of what you say. But the good news is that we are still, structurally, a representative democracy. Your vote matters, my vote matters. The science of modern public opinion involves manipulating blocks of votes. But we have (and can again) shake things up by becoming a new, self-organized, self-informed block that isn't in the existing calculations.

        This can happen on any political axis you care to name. It works for the left and the right. And it still gives me hope. A loud, active population is what is needed. I come here for that.

        •  I voted for a Democrat, (0+ / 0-)

          and it didn't matter after all.  The structure keeps which ever party wins in line and makes sure ordinary citizens don't have influence on the structure.

 the elites...actually believe that society can be destroyed by anyone except those who lead them? - John Ralston Saul -

          by Silverbird on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 09:38:11 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Sidebar: Public Option (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    politicjock, CherryTheTart


    We speak with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "We’re going to fight for it down to the very last day," Rep. Grijalva says of the public option. "It’s got to be part of [the bill]. If it’s not, we are just showering money upon money upon the same system and the same industry that got us into the mess we’re in right now."

    The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is the largest non-party caucus in the United States Congress with 83 declared members, and works to advance progressive issues and positions.

    The CPC was founded in 1991 and currently has more than eighty members. The Caucus is co-chaired by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). Of the twenty standing committees of the House, eleven are chaired by members of the CPC.

    When you give up on the un-insured and the under-insured you give up on your countrymen/women ~ Hate, Greed, Lies, Gullible vs. Health Care For All

    by anyname on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 02:30:45 AM PDT

  •  best HCR diary so far (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fflambeau, Kharafina, CherryTheTart

    awesome content, awesome on the Podesta family of whores

  •  Too Bad about "Democracy Now" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Regina in a Sears Kit House

    The interview was with the far far far far left crowd. This makes this information much harder to circulate to a wider audience. Many will dismiss it offhand in the same way many Democrats dismiss Bill O'Reilly or Rush Dimbulb.

    •  mean "far far far far left" of Obama/Blue Dogs? (4+ / 0-)

      Democracy Now is hardly radical and is not comparable to the irrational hate radio shows that you mentioned.

      "All [US govt model based countries], without exception, have succumbed to the nightmare [of breakdown] one time or another, often repeatedly." - Bruce Ackerman

      by PoxOnYou on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 03:37:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Matador, you're painting with a aircraft carrier (6+ / 0-)

      Why not try to deal with the facts in the interview.  You wrote:  "The interview was with the far far far far left crowd."  Factually wrong, or cannot you read?  

      The interview was with Potter who spent 20 years in the insurance field.  

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 03:41:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  no no no (0+ / 0-)

        You misunderstand. I believe the interview very factual and Potter to be very believable. But I canot forward this to my wingnut friends. They will dismiss it out of hand because of the source, "Democracy Now". How much better a resource this would be if it was not from the very far left.

        •  I'd be surprised if your wingnut friends knew DN (0+ / 0-)

          It's not exactly a well known broadcast by the mainstream and FOX News right. Furthermore, you can copy and paste the interview without attributing the source if it worries you. If they ask, tell them. If they take some issue with an interview because they disagree with the political orientation of the show, that's their problem. If they were that bad about it, they wouldn't accept anything not done by Fox News or right wing radio.

          "All [US govt model based countries], without exception, have succumbed to the nightmare [of breakdown] one time or another, often repeatedly." - Bruce Ackerman

          by PoxOnYou on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 06:28:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I dont even send the. . . (0+ / 0-)

            anything with DailyKos on it, it has been so demonized, let alone Democracy Now. They generally dismiss anything I send them anyways sence they regard me as a leftist as it is. But when I find someting useful on this website, I usually check the cross post and if it is from what I think THEY would view as a more credible source, I sometimes send them that. I don't inundate them though, since the object is to slowly change their mind, not to be a pest like a religiosu proselytizer.

            But your right. . .I may send them this without any source whatsoever: thanks for the suggestion.

    •  "the far far far far left crowd." (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FightTheFuture, Cassiodorus

      is where the truth is to be found.

      I don't know many Democrats who dismiss Amy Goodman.

      Bill Clinton might get pissed off when asked real questions that need answering, but that's just too damn bad for him.

      Like Amy said ..

      After the show, I got a call from the White House press office. A staffer let me know how furious they were at me for "breaking the ground rules for the interview."

      "Ground rules?" I asked. "What ground rules? He called up to be interviewed, and I interviewed him."

      "He called to discuss getting out the vote, and you strayed from the topic. You also kept him on much longer than the two to three minutes we agreed to," she huffed.

      "President Clinton is the most powerful person in the world," I replied. "He can hang up when he wants to."

      •  I don't dismiss Amy Goodman (0+ / 0-)

        . . .and that is nnot and was not my point. You too need to brush up on your reading comprehension and logic skills. Reread the post but this time, don't bring your bias to the task.

  •  Interesting (0+ / 0-)

    How knowing who really runs things in this country. And we talk about the middle east and all its corruption and bribe taking.
    And those wars are another way corporate greed is bleeding this nation of its money and human treasure...


    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. MLK

    by createpeace on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 03:21:01 AM PDT

  •  The question that keeps coming back is..... (7+ / 0-)

    Why do we even need health insurance (or health insurance reform) to guarantee quality and affordable health care to everyone in this country?  

    A retired insurance executive once told my mother at a cocktail party where he had too much to drink, "we are thieves, all of us are thieves."  

    The health insurance industry is an unnecessary and evil middle man between every one of us and quality healthcare.

    "in the wake of Sept. 11, a frightened nation betrayed one of its core principles -- the rule of law -- for the fool's gold of security." Leonard Pitts

    by gulfgal98 on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 04:39:22 AM PDT

  •  it'll be just a little while (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    before the for-profit healthcare industry teams up with Blackwater since their businesses are so closely aligned and supported by government.

    Hope for American workers isn't Wall Street's agenda.

    by FreeTradeIsYourEpitaph on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 05:03:22 AM PDT

  •  This diary gets to the big picture (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Captain Janeway, Amber6541

    Its important to get concrete details on the various healthcare bills but its also important to understand the underlying forces at work in our politics. Concentrated corporate power is the ENEMY. The ignorant rightwing bigots are the sideshow. I work in public relations, I know how they think and how they operate. They don't have "faith". They pursue their agenda 24/7 and they work damn hard at it. Their single goal is profits and their machinery hammers away tirelessly to achieve it.

    We will ALWAYS lose to them if we aren't just as single-minded, just as focused and with just as little sentimentality.

  •  Wish he'd get booked on GMA (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, Amber6541

    He needs to get booked on Good Morning America, Early Show, Today Show and Oprah!

    Right now, we're the only ones hearing from him, having seen this interview, nyceve's interview, and the one on Bill Moyers Journal.

    Hopefully, he'll be able to reach the rest of the nation soon--the sooner, the better.

    Watching Pete Sessions and reporting from the Taliban-controlled 32nd Congressional District of Texas.

    by CoolOnion on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 07:14:52 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    betson08, Amber6541

    Thank you for giving Mr. Potter more of the attention he truly deserves.

  •  250 billion.. (0+ / 0-)

    ... is quoted as the total revenues of the 7 largest insurance companies in the diary. Eliminate that entirely and you still have the other 90 percent of what we pay the medical-industrial complex every year. So it would be a good start, but much more would need to be done to make medical care affordable here.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 07:38:07 AM PDT

  •  Watched "Sicko" last night (6+ / 0-)

    It brought home to me (again) that there's a deep vein of cruelty and greed here that other western countries don't seem to have.

    When hospitals dump sick disoriented patients in the street, when a veterans' hospital is infested with mold and rats, when 9/11 volunteers get victimized, when lobbyists fights to keep the system just the way it is so that TARP-bloated Wall Street can get even fatter ... I feel this gut-wrenching anger.

  •  Wendell Potter is a great man (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, fflambeau, Amber6541

    I saw & heard Wendell this Saturday at FightingBobFest ( in Baraboo, WI.

    Wendell was amazed at the cheering crowd of 8,000 Progressives who gave him a standing & screaming ovation when he came to the podium. Wendell actually took our picture so he could "show the folks back home because they would never believe it". He said that moving to Wisconsin was the right thing to do.

    At the start of his speech, Wendell apologized for his past work in the Healthcare Insurance Industry and for assisting his employers to keep their customers from getting needed healthcare.

    Wendall was preaching to the choir, but his talk reinforced the resolve of those in attendance to do more to get Healthcare reform passed THIS YEAR.

    I'm going to on Sept 12, 2009

    by Sand Hill Crane on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 08:35:57 AM PDT

  •  Wendell Potter needs to be on every talk radio (0+ / 0-)

    show that will have him. He needs to be on every TV show that will have him.

    He needs to have a visit with some Senators and Congresscritters, under oath to testify.

    Perhaps most important of all, he needs to have a nice long, one on one chat with the President, (maybe with his Chief of Staff present, too.)

    •  Unfortuntely, Shpilk, Obama doesn't talk to progr (0+ / 0-)

      Obama doesn't talk to progressives.  The Congressional Progressive Caucus has written and asked him twice to meet with them.  He has refused.  Rahm & Obama are bot anti Progressive.  Obama is meeting only with CEO's (and spokespeople) of the insurers behind secret doors.

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 04:11:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The junk insurance issue (0+ / 0-)

    The House and Senate HELP bills both attempt to address the issue of out-of-pocket costs.

    The House bill limits them to at most $5,000 per year for individuals or $10,000 for families. Still seems like a lot, but at least it's a limit.

    In America, 60% of bankruptcies are because of medical bills, and 80% of those people had health insurance

    by sullivanst on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 11:35:20 AM PDT

    •  Thanks sullivanst but $5,000 for an individual (0+ / 0-)

      if that person is making only $35,000 a year might be enough to bankrupt them.  These policies are called "junk insurance" for a reason.  Obama has made the mistake of trying to build on a failed system.  It just will not work.  

      "Tyranny & oppression are just as possible under democratic forms as under any other...democracy is a life & involves continual struggle." Robert LaFoll

      by fflambeau on Mon Sep 14, 2009 at 04:13:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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