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Tnrtv: Former Health Insurance Insider Slams Industry

Wendell Potter, who spent more than two decades as a public relations executive for CIGNA and Humana, explains how health insurers con consumers, how the industry is a cash cow for Wall Street, and why health reform must include a public plan: "I don't think this is an industry that is honest enough to ever be regulated as it should be."

 Today, Potter testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on the industry's "duplicitous" lobbying and use of "fear tactics." Check out the video of his testimony and highlights from the transcript:

My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years, I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick--all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.

I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand--or even to obtain--information we need. As you hold hearings and discuss legislative proposals over the coming weeks, I encourage you to look very closely at the role for-profit insurance companies play in making our health care system both the most expensive and one of the most dysfunctional in the world. I hope you get a real sense of what life would be like for most of us if the kind of so-called reform the insurers are lobbying for is enacted.

When I left my job as head of corporate communications for one of the country's largest insurers, I did not intend to go public as a former insider. However, it recently became abundantly clear to me that the industry's charm offensive--which is the most visible part of duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbying campaigns-may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street far more than average Americans.

A few months after I joined the health insurer CIGNA Corp. in 1993, just as the last national health care reform debate was underway, the president of CIGNA's health care division was one of three industry executives who came here to assure members of Congress that they would help lawmakers pass meaningful reform. While they expressed concerns about some of President Clinton's proposals, they said they enthusiastically supported several specific goals.

Those goals included covering all Americans; eliminating underwriting practices like pre-existing condition exclusions and cherry-picking; the use of community rating; and the creation of a standard benefit plan. Had the industry followed through on its commitment to those goals, I wouldn't be here today.

Keep reading Potter's testimony... 

--Ben Eisler