Saturday, July 25, 2009

Healthcare Exec Turned Whistleblower Says U.S. Needs Universal Coverage

I interviewed Wendell Potter, the former top public relations official for CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest insurers, about the kind of influence the healthcare industry wields over members of Congress, and the need for healthcare reform in America. While serving CIGNA, Potter was part of a group charged with discrediting Michael Moore’s film, Sicko, which he now calls an “honest film.” He is now a whistleblower for Big Health, an industry that he blames for leaving millions of Americans uninsured, under-insured, and misinformed.

I wanted to know what a former healthcare insider thought of Obama’s option, and what Potter thought of the dismissal of a universal healthcare plan. “All of us deserve access to care, so I think universal health care should be this country’s goal just like other developed countries,” says Potter, though he doesn’t see the solution coming from the federal government. Though he fully supports a public option, Potter believes every man, woman, and child should have access to healthcare, and the only way to make that happen is with universal healthcare. However, Potter is optimistic that America might follow the Canada model for coverage.

In Canada, it began at the provincial level. I think it could possibly happen in this country at the state level. There have been a number of states that have looked at implementing a single-payer system, including California. In fact, California lawmakers have twice voted for a single-payer system that Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed. And the state of Pennsylvania, where I live, is seriously considering a single-payer option, and it has a lot of Republican support. A lot of Republicans have signed on as sponsors. So it’s something that could develop at the state level, and more than likely will be the only way it can happen in the United States.

Canadian care is delivered privately by doctors and hospitals just like we have it delivered here in America. A single-payer system in America would behave the same way. Potter emphasizes, “you would have publicly funded, privately delivered care.” Not a government bureaucrat standing between a doctor and patient anywhere.

The main obstacle standing between Americans and universal healthcare is, of course, the private healthcare industry. The reason the “universal” option disappeared almost immediately from the conversation on the Hill is because Big Health flexed its muscle. Groups like “the health insurance industry, and like big PHRMA, and the pharmaceutical industry, and even the American Medical Association,” Potter says are “looking out for the best interest of their membership. In other words, the health insurance trade group is looking out for the best interest of insurance companies. They’re, ultimately, not looking out for the best interest of the individual residents and citizens of the United States.”

Read it all at The Public Record

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