Monday, July 13, 2009

Meet Wendell Potter

Potter is a former executive at Cigna, one of our largest medical insurance providers. In December 2007, Nataline Sarkisyan was a 17 yo girl, a cancer survivor who needed a liver transplant who died because Cigna initially refused to approve coverage for the surgery. The surgery was eventually approved but only hours before she died. Mr. Potter was the public face for Cigna at this time. And it clearly had an impact on him.

He has retired now and is ready and willing to tell the rest of us the truth about the health insurance industry. What he says should be obvious if you think about the business of insurance. The insured person gives his money to a company that must take that money, pay its executives, provide profit for its shareholders and finally pay for the medical care that person needs.

"Looking back over his long career, Potter sees an industry corrupted by Wall Street expectations and greed. According to Potter, insurers have every incentive to deny coverage -- every dollar they don't pay out to a claim is a dollar they can add to their profits, and Wall Street investors demand they pay out less every year."
Watch Mr. Potter on Bill Moyers show from last Friday night.

What value does the insurance company or its stockholders add to medical care? NONE! I think there was hope at one time that competing insurance and managed care companies would rein in costs but that has not happened. Premiums go up, executive salaries go up, stock prices go up. Coverage goes down. And the CEO's compensation is not based on what great coverage his company provides but what profits he can wring from the premiums he collects and how little he spends for health care.

Scare tactics like "Do you want a bureaucrat between you and your doctor?" can be answered with "Right now, I have a CEO between me and my doctor."

Personally I'm for a single payer system. But a public option may be all we get at this time. But if we don't get a public option then we will not get the change we need and the change I voted for. And I will be angry. PRM

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