Another Wealth Care Story

A frequent complaint of the No Change protesters is that they don't want government "bureaucrats" to make the decisions about their health care. Sounds like bureaucrats--corporate bureaucrats--are already making health care decisions for people--with deadly results. One woman in a Florida protest held a sign that asked, "Where will Canadians go" if we in the U.S. nationalize our health care system.

Actually, Canadians don't need to go anywhere. They have it all--regardless of income, regardless of employment status, regardless of age. Free health care. Everyone's covered. Had I been on the scene, I would have asked the Florida protester if she's talked with Canadians about their health care system. I have, and I've talked with Brits and with Germans too, more than I can count. Not one has ever said they'd trade their system for ours. I'd also ask the woman with the sign what her particular financial and/or employment situation is, and what type of health insurance coverage she has since she seems well satisfied with it. None of those questions was asked in the news broadcast. The woman said health care decisions should be the realm of doctor and patient.

Read the CNN report about a teenager who did not get to make her own health care decision.
( BTW--CNN you're not very user friendly, are you? It's not like I don't give FULL attribution when I swipe another writer's story)

By Jim Acosta and Bonney Kapp
CNN's American Morning
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Wendell Potter says he is finished defending the insurance industry, which he says is "beholden to Wall Street."

At a hearing last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, the former vice president of corporate communications at the insurance giant Cigna testified, "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."

The committee's chairman, Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, told Potter, "You are better than Russell Crowe on 'The Insider,' " referring to the award-winning 1999 film about cigarette company executive Jeffrey Wigand, who blew the whistle on the tobacco industry's practices.

In his testimony and during an interview with CNN, Potter described how underwriters at his former company would drive small businesses with expensive insurance claims to dump their Cigna policies. Industry executives refer to the practice as "purging," Potter said.

"When that business comes up for renewal, the underwriters jack the rates up so much, the employer has no choice but to drop insurance," Potter said.

CNN obtained a transcript of a 2008 Cigna conference call with investors in which company executives use the term "purge."

But in an e-mail to CNN, Cigna spokesman Chris Curran denied the company engages in purging.

"We do not practice that. We will offer rates that are reflective of the competitive group health insurance market. We always encourage our clients to compare our proposed rates to those available from other carriers," Curran wrote.

Cigna had revenue of $19.1 billion in 2008, according to the company Web site.

Potter decided to leave Cigna after attending a charity medical event.
"It was almost like an electrical jolt," Potter said.

At the event, Potter took pictures of doctors offering free health care to the uninsured.

"The volunteer doctors were seeing patients in barns, people in animal stalls," Potter said. "It changed it for me."

He says he finally decided to quit in 2007 after Cigna's controversial handling of an insurance claim made by the family of a California teenager, Nataline Sarkysian.

The Sarkysian family made repeated appeals at news conferences for Cigna to approve a liver transplant for the 17-year-old, who had leukemia. Cigna initially declined to cover the operation, then reversed its decision.

Sarkysian died hours after the company's reversal.

As Cigna's spokesman during the controversy, Potter had no role in the decision to deny coverage. But he was inundated with angry phone calls.

"After she died, my voice mail and my e-mail inbox were just filled with messages from people who were just outraged, " Potter said.

Now a senior fellow on health care for the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, Potter writes a blog on health care reform. In particular, he is keeping an eye on efforts to defeat legislation that would give Americans the option of joining a government health care plan, something he now supports.

He says he witnessed how the insurance industry torpedoed health care reform efforts during the Clinton administration.

"They conduct what I call duplicitous PR campaigns. They'll say what people want to hear," Potter says. "It's how they operate. You cannot trust these guys."

Wendell Potter's Senate testimony link is here: www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/potter

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