Yesterday, I posted part of a talk given by health insurance company whistle blower Wendell Potter, explaining how the corporate PR playbook works.
Today's diary covers the second half of his talk wherein he suggests how the coming attack on health reform (PPACA) is really going to play out.
Hint: It does not involve total repeal, and it definitely does not involve a narrow repeal of just the individual mandate.
The key points are as follow:
The health insurance industry was actually in some trouble. The cost of their product was getting too high, and kept going up. The quality and value of their product kept going down, as evidenced by high deductible plans, higher co-pays, etc. Polling showed more and more public dissatisfaction with private health insurance, including in their own internal polling a majority of Americans supporting government intervention.
In order to be assured of getting customers, the health insurance industry NEEDS the individual mandate, and wants the employer mandate.
The phony repeal bill is two-pager written by a PR person paid by industry to make people afraid.
Therefore, once the symbolic vote for repeal fails, as it is pre-scripted to do, their real campaign will begin.
There is no way the industry will allow just the individual mandate to be repealed, not by congress and not by the judiciary either. As a single payer advocate, I would urge everybody to support the repeal of just the individual mandate, even if it also is supported by conservative libertarians and true tea party folk.
But, it is not what the insurance companies and corporatist wing of both parties want as the Chamber of Commerce acting on their behalf has said recently, and indeed as Aetna and Cigna have said themselves.
So, here is how Wendell Potter (and I) sees the Corporate PR Playbook going:
They will say:
"We tried but the bad liberal Democrats in the Senate wouldn't let us."
Therefore, they will go on to say, here are reforms and fixes we need:
"A common sense market based approach"
"That bad government take-over Obamacare is too inflexible, too one size fits all"
"We need more benefit design flexibility."
"We need more market flexibility"
That is what we are going to be hearing. And they will be trying to get enough support from conservative, blue dog and corporatist Democrats to be successful in chipping away at the good stuff we did get in health reform (PPACA).
All those phrases, "common sense" and "market based" and "inflexible" and "benefit flexibility" are code for weakening or getting rid of: guarantee issue (cannot be denied insurance even at high cost due to pre-existing conditions) and community rating (price for insurance is not based on your individual risk, which is needed to make guarantee issue meaningful), the limits on medical expense ratio (insurance companies have to use the money to pay for health services, not overhead, marketing, profit and their own salary) and protection against rescission (dropping your coverage and refusing to pay once you get sick).
Most of the good stuff is already pretty weak in reality. They will be working legislatively and in the regulatory process, to make it weaker still.
Furthermore, they will go for a divide and conquer approach:
They will try to divide young versus old; they will say:
"Why should the young pay more to cover the old."
Which really means weaken community rating.
They will set the healthy against the sick; you will be hearing:
"Why should the virtuous healthy (they will say) pay more, in order to be able to make coverage affordable for those bad people who get themselves sick (overweight, poor diet, alcohol and other drugs, poor, minority, whatever)."
This translates as an attack on guarantee issue, and community rating, and rescission protection and minimum medical expense ratio.
Okay, now, finally those video clips: Wendell Potter, the former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, turned whistle blower describes the fight ahead in the video clips below and in his book Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. Mr. Potter has testified to congress, been on Bill Moyers and MSNBC and other media. The Nation cited him as 2010's most valuable author.
The clips are from an event in NYC this past Monday, sponsored by the New York City metro area chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, of which I am a board member. We had about 180 to 200 people in the audience.
This clip picks up from where yesterday's left off, with the attack on Michael Moore and the film "Sicko."
The discussion of the how the reform debate really went down starts at about the 5:30 minute mark, pointing out how the insurance companies got what they really wanted, no discussion of single payer, no enactment of a public option, and getting the individual mandate.
- Sorry, the embed for the first clip is not working, so here is YouTube link for first video: http://www.youtube.com/...
- The second and last clip picks where the prior one above left off, with the discussion of the health reform we got and where the fight is really going, and then into the audience questions and answers:
Once again: In addition to Mr. Potter's book, for those who are interested in how the health reform we got went down and where we go from here, I (and Bill Moyers) strongly recommend Dr. John Geyman's book Hijacked: The Road to Single Payer in the Aftermath of Stolen Health Care Reform and his prescient earlier book Do Not Resuscitate: Why the Health Insurance Industry is Dying, and How We Must Replace It.
Peace & Health