Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans
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Wendell Potter is the insurance industry's worst nightmare.In June 2009, Wendell Potter made national headlines with his scorching testimony before the Senate panel on health care reform. This former senior VP of CIGNA explained how health insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, how they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and how they skew political debate with multibillion-dollar PR campaigns designed to spread disinformation.Potter had walked away from a six-figure salary and two decades as an insurance executive because he could no longer abide the routine practices of an industry where the needs of sick and suffering Americans take a backseat to the bottom line. The last straw: when he visited a rural health clinic and saw hundreds of people standing in line in the rain to receive treatment in stalls built for livestock.In Deadly Spin, Potter takes readers behind the scenes to show how a huge chunk of our absurd healthcare spending actually bankrolls a propaganda campaign and lobbying effort focused on protecting one thing: profits. Whatever the fate of the current health care legislation, it makes no attempt to change that fundamental problem.
Potter shows how relentless PR assaults play an insidious role in our political process anywhere that corporate profits are at stake—from climate change to defense policy. Deadly Spin tells us why—and how—we must fight back.
more opportunities to reach and influence their target audiences, but they also face greater and far more immediate criticism when they get things wrong. A recent example is Toyota’s handling of its 2010 quality control debacle, in which more than eight million vehicles worldwide were recalled, resulting in a drop of more than 20 percent in the value of Toyota stock. The company’s early response was slow, passive, insufficient, even insulting. Toyota was lambasted for ignoring customer
example, which I can attest to firsthand. If advertisers are the hidden persuaders, PR practitioners are the “invisible persuaders,” to borrow the term British author David Michie used in the title of his 1998 book about the growing influence of unseen PR advisers in the United Kingdom.5 PR people do not create ads that can be seen or heard or touched. They create perceptions without any public disclosure of who is doing the persuading or for what purposes. Although PR techniques remain a
of us. The statement we sent to the Los Angeles TV reporter didn’t acknowledge that Nataline was a CIGNA member, much less answer any specific questions about the alleged denial: “Due to federal privacy laws we are unable to confirm that this individual is a CIGNA member at this time. Cases such as this are not decided based on cost, but rather on the medical appropriateness of treatment. There is an appeals process in place whereby physicians who are not with CIGNA review a case and provide
her is not enough.” I realized after watching the exchange between Ignagni and Obama that I had seen both sides of the industry’s duplicitous PR campaign in a single day. Ignagni was saying what she knew the president and the inside-the-Beltway crowd wanted to hear, while Wamp was saying what the industry wanted him to say to the rest of the world. He was a tool in the industry’s effort to use “third parties” to kill key elements of the president’s plan, if not all of it, by scaring and lying to
penalty for bank robbery was limited to giving back the stolen money. No jail time, no fines, just pay the money back—and only if you are caught. To top it off, the repaid money would be interest free. Would bank robbery increase under such circumstances? That’s the situation HMOs and insurers enjoy under ERISA.2 In his blog post headlined “Mark Geragos Is Wasting His Time,” ERISA expert Adams wrote: The general public does not understand that if they are in a dispute with a health