Since the early 2000’s the health care industry has been the bane of many Americans existence, leading them to enormous debt, bankruptcy and in worse cases foreclosure.
Wendell Potter, the former vice president of the insurance giant Cigna, has spoken out about the practices of the industry to shed some light on the growing concern surrounding health care reform.
Potter, who ended up stepping away from his position said the industry is playing “dirty tricks” to distort public opinion.
“Words matter, and the insurance industry is a master at linguistics and using the hot words, buzzwords, buzz expressions that they know will get people upset,” he said.
According to CNN, Potter, now a member of a watch dog group Center for Media and Democracy, is an active healthcare reform blogger. In addition to the blog, Potter is a supporter of the government regulated health care plan and has joined the effort to pass the legislation.
“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,” Potter testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in early July.
Potter also explained a healthcare industry common practice called “purging.”
He detailed the procedure saying underwriters at Cigna would dramatically spike insurance rates on small businesses, leaving them no choice but to drop their policies.
“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 had said.
Chris Curran, a Cigna spokesman denied the notion of his company purging and responded to the allegations in an email.
“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.
Potter, currently in Washington with Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, said he is suspicious of the insurance companies’ public relations tactics. He said some of the questions raised at the town hall meeting are recognizable.
“People talk about the government takeover of the system … that’s a buzz term that comes straight out of the insurance industry,” he said
While Curran did not address Potter’s suspicions behind the town hall dust ups, Cigna released a written statement agreeing that health care reform is needed, but expressed skepticism behind the government being able to successfully accomplish the task.
Potter’s concerns, however, are incredibly similar to the Democrats’ strategy to aggressively go after insurance companies this summer. In sharp contrast, Republicans do not believe the insurance companies are entirely responsible for the health care crisis, citing the handful of policy holder who are happy with their plan.
The Democrats are also facing scrutiny from a group of fiscal conservatives called “Blue Dogs,” who are panicked over high-priced health care plans being driven out.
Potter continually stresses the fact that he has no agenda — rather a burning passion for the issue.
“This is hard to do. It’s scary to do something like this. I don’t think I’m any more courageous than anybody but I feel I had to do this.”
Potter decided to resign 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.
The young woman died just hours after the reversal.