Spinning Health Care Reform


How does the health care industry spin the media to protect its turf? Columbia Journalism Review‘s Trudy Lieberman interviews Wendell Potter, a former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, the country’s fourth-largest insurer (and the insurer of the Corn household). And Potter tells all. He shares an insider’s perspective we rarely get:

Trudy Lieberman: Why did you leave CIGNA?

Wendell Potter: I didn’t want to be part of another health insurance industry effort to shape reform that would benefit the industry at the expense of the public.

TL: Was there anything in particular that turned you against the industry?

WP: A couple of years ago I was in Tennessee and saw an ad for a health expedition in the nearby town of Wise, Virginia. Out of curiosity I went and was overwhelmed by what I saw. Hundreds of people were standing in line to get free medical care in animal stalls. Some had camped out the night before in the rain. It was like being in a different country. It moved me to tears. Shortly afterward I was flying in a corporate jet and realized someone’s insurance premiums were paying for me to fly that way. I knew it wasn’t long before I had to leave the industry. It was like my road to Damascus.

Potter explains how the industry routinely manipulates data and how he manipulated reporters, explaining the details of the “dupicitous PR campaigns” the industry mounts to kill reform or bend it to their liking. It’s a chilling account–especially when you consider that the Obama administration and Dems on the Hill this time around are trying to bring the health insurance industry into the tent. Reading Potter’s account, you’ll find it hard to believe that the legislators or the White House can get the better deal in any collaborative process with these profit-driven wizards of publicity and politics.

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