Longtime health insurance company bigwig and former holder of “the ultimate PR job,” Wendell Potter recently told PBS‘ Bill Moyers (Bill Moyers Journal, 7/10/09) how he had been “involved in the campaign by the industry to discredit Michael Moore and his film Sicko,” and now sees that “the industry is resorting to the same tactics they’ve used… back in the early ’90s, when they were leading the effort to kill the Clinton plan” for national healthcare reform.
Potter told Moyers that he “knew that 47 million people were uninsured, but I didn’t put faces with that number” until he “picked up the local newspaper and I saw that a healthcare expedition was being held a few miles up the road.” Seeing “people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care,” sparked his defection from the PR machine, and ultimately moved him to appear on Moyers’ show to describe the insurance companies’ fear of “high-profile cases”:
When you have a case like that–a family or a patient goes to the news media and complains about having some coverage denied that a doctor had recommended. In this case, Nataline Sarkisyan’s doctors at UCLA had recommended that she have a liver transplant. But when the coverage request was reviewed at Cigna, the decision was made to deny it.
It was around that time, also, that the family had gone to the media, had sought out help from the California Nurses Association and some others to really bring pressure to bear on Cigna. And they were very successful in getting a lot of media attention, and nothing like I had ever seen before….
It got everyone’s attention. Everyone was focused on that in the corporate offices.
Unfortunately, the U.S. press’ general attention toward the larger story of insurance company evildoing has been neglectful to say the least, as exemplified by the fact that this was Potter’s “first extended television interview since leaving the health insurance industry…last year.” Encourage journalists to correct at least part of this by signing FAIR’s petition to Tell Media: Include Single-Payer in Healthcare Debate.