How the healthcare industry discredited universal care


by Paul Schmelzer | July 20, 2009 • After Bill Moyers aired a clip from Michael Moore’s Sicko which showed how well-served and happy patients in Canada and the UK were with government-run healthcare, former Cigna exec Wendell Potter says Moore “hit the nail on the head” with the film. Yet, the trade group that advocates for health insurance companies like Cigna mounted a successful smear campaign against the documentary — the kind of campaign we’re seeing aimed at healthcare reform today. The group AHIP released talking points to counter the film’s claims, including one that read: “highlight horror stories of government-run systems.”

Eyeteeth – Paul Schmelzer is a writer, editor, and journalist, and the managing editor of Minnesota Independent. Occasional posts from his blog, Eyeteeth, are re-published with his permission.

Potter says there’s a big truth to take away from Sicko: “We shouldn’t fear government involvement in our healthcare system. His must-read testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation last month (which I found at Harvard’s Nieman Watchdog blog) echoed that sentiment:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. 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.

He concluded:

The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent, publicly-accountable health care option as a “government-run system.” But what we have today, Mr. Chairman, is a Wall Street-run system that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care, and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.

Via Ed Kohler.

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