Wendell Potter, the former head of communications for health insurance giant Cigna, understands why many people across the country are showing up to town hall meetings extremely upset when members of Congress try to explain why the government needs to expand its role in the health care system. He admits to having many conservative friends who are worried about a government takeover of healthcare. Both the people in the town hall meetings and Potter’s conservative friends have the same ideology: the less government control in our lives, the better. Potter further illustrates his point by providing the example of a man standing in line to get free healthcare at Remote Area Medical’s recent health care endeavor at the fairgrounds in Wise County, Virginia. Although the man knew firsthand the desperation many Americans feel every day for affordable health care, he told reporters he was dead set against President Obama’s health care reform proposal because he was worried about the increase in taxes; he would rather wait in a long line to see volunteer doctors in animal stalls than pay more taxes. Potter does, however, feel that there needs to be reform in order to ensure the safety and prosperity of the American people and wants the American public to realize that a lot of the information against Obama’s healthcare reforms was started by the healthcare industry itself.
In a recent press conference, which was later reported about on the radio, Potter claimed insurance companies funded many of the protestors against President Obama’s healthcare plan. What the radio report failed to include, however, was how health insurance companies and their public relations team influence everyone’s opinions without us even knowing it; after all, before Potter quit his job last year he was one of the leaders of this PR army. It was Potter’s job to “promote and defend” the company’s reputation by trying to persuade journalists to write positive stories about the industry’s reform ideas. During the last few years of his career, however, Potter became concerned about the American people. He was scared the high deductible plans insurers were now pushing would force more and more people into bankruptcy; he also saw how the insurance companies would drop people after they became sick in order to increase profits and reward Wall Street investors. In response, Potter decided he could not be an industry mouthpiece and kill much needed reform, so he quit.
Potter further explains how the healthcare industry funnels millions of its policyholder premiums to PR firms. In return, the firms will use their close connections with the conservative media in order to scare people away from industry reform. He wants to inform Americans that the healthcare horror stories, such as Canadians waiting in lines for hours to see doctors, is part of a script written by the insurance industry; the industry has been using these scare-tactics since they campaigned to kill President Clinton’s reform plan. Potter says the “death panel” rumor is a prime example of the health care industry sponsored rumors. Potter concludes his commentary by saying that whenever you hear someone warning against a “government takeover” of healthcare, or that the healthcare reform is down a “slippery slope to toward socialism,” know that one of his former colleagues wrote those terms.