Why Everyone Needs to Know About Wendell Potter

Some of the most damning, heinous inside information to ever be released is being divulged by Wendell Potter. For 20 years Mr. Potter worked as a corporate public relations executive, mostly in health care. Last year he quit his job as head of communications for Cigna, one of America’s largest health insurers. Prior to that job he served in the same capacity for Humana, another big health insurance company.

In 2007 Mr. Potter had an epiphany of sorts. He went to see Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko,” a scathing film about our health care system. Mr. Potter wanted to develop a propaganda attack against the film but suddenly found himself agreeing with most of what he saw up on the screen.

In Health Care Fit for Animals, NY Times Op-Ed, 8-27-09, Mr. Potter says he “flew in corporate jets to industry meetings to plan how to block health reform” and concocted “messaging to scare the public about reform.”

Mr. Potter has been interviewed on MSNBC, PBS and testified before Congress. According to Whistleblower is Dems’ best ammo in health care fight, NY Daily News, 8-3-09, “As a homegrown Southerner from Tennessee, Wendell Potter would be hard to dismiss. Even the people who sometimes blindly support fear-based policy would listen long and hard. Those fear-based policies function against their own interests but are presented as a socialist plot bent on destroying our health care system and doing the public in. But Potter said this to Bill Moyers early last month:

“I am speaking out about how big for-profit insurers have hijacked our health care system and turned it into a giant ATM for Wall Street investors, and how the industry is using its massive wealth and influence to determine what is (and is not) included in the health care reform legislation members of Congress are now writing. I was in a unique position to see not only how Wall Street analysts and investors influence decisions insurance company executives make, but also how the industry has carried out behind-the-scenes PR and lobbying campaigns to kill or weaken any health care reform efforts that threatened insurers’ profitability.”

The health insurance problem gets more frightening as Potter gets specific about public relations campaigns he worked on in a piece he wrote for CNN.com called Commentary: How insurance firms drive debate, 8-17-09.

“…the (health insurance) industry funnels millions of its policyholders’ premiums to big public relations firms that provide talking points to conservative talk show hosts, business groups and politicians. I also described (during his Capitol Hill press conference) how the PR firms set up front groups, again using your premium dollars and mine, to scare people away from reform.

What I’m trying to do as I write and speak out against the insurance industry I was a part of for nearly two decades is to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by “government bureaucrats,” someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script.” (Emphasis added)

Not only is this a terrible indictment of the health insurance industry but it also speaks volumes about how pathetic public relations is in America. In one of the mother of all PR deceptions, just prior to Persian Gulf War I, in October of 1990 a tearful 15-year old Kuwaiti girl who called herself Nayirah told a Congressional caucus (lying to a Congressional committee is a crime, lying to a caucus is “public relations,” see Additional Reading below) that she watched in horror as invading Iraqi soldiers removed babies from incubators in a Kuwait City hospital, left the babies “on the cold floor to die” then shipped the much-needed incubators back to Iraq.

Unfortunately this was all a lie and the girl was the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US. The story was a total fabrication, made up by PR-powerhouse Hill & Knowlton, who was paid over $10 million by the Kuwaiti royal family to convince Americans to go to war against Iraq.

Getting back to Mr. Potter, he goes on to write that the health care industry goes to great lengths to hide its involvement in PR campaigns from the public. He closes the CNN.com piece with: “So the next time you hear someone warning against a “government takeover” of our health care system, or that the creation of a public health insurance option would send us down the “slippery slope toward socialism,” know that someone like I used to be the one who wrote those terms, knowing it might turn many of the very people who would benefit most from meaningful reform into unwitting spokespeople for the industry.”

Shortly after Mr. Potter saw “Sicko” he visited his parents in Tennessee. During that trip he went to a charity program set up at a county fairground that provided medical treatment for people who could not afford doctors.

The NY Times piece, Health Care Fit for Animals, notes that “Long lines of people were waiting in the rain, and patients were being examined and treated in public in stalls intended for livestock.” Another epiphany for Mr. Potter as he is quoted as saying, “It was a life-changing event to witness that.”

The article also says Mr. Potter argues that tough health insurance regulation is essential and “a robust public option is an essential part of any health reform, to compete with for-profit insurers and keep them honest.”

ADDITIONAL READING:

Please click on the links in the above post and read all three articles I cite, they’re great. One of them, Health Care Fit for Animals, NY Times Op-Ed, 8-27-09, details how health insurance companies deny claims and cancel policies after a paying customer gets sick and needs costly care so they can increase profits and keep their stock prices high.

Hill & Knowlton (see their profile at SourceWatch – A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy) is one of the oldest PR firms in America and represented the tobacco industry from 1953 to 1968. While whoring for big tobacco Hill & Knowlton created an advertising campaign to counter scientific evidence that linked smoking to lung cancer.

Read The Babies From Incubators Hoax (from SourceWatch – A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy) to see how Hill & Knowlton created a front group, Citizens for a Free Kuwait, held press conferences showing torture by Iraqi soldiers and distributed thousands of “Free Kuwait” T-shirts and bumper stickers to convince Americans to go to war. Dozens of other tactics, including setting up media interviews for visiting Kuwaitis, creating observances like National Free Kuwait Day and making video news releases shown by TV news directors who rarely, if ever, mentioned that the footage and stories were created by Hill & Knowlton, were employed by the PR powerhouse.

You can also read here about how Hill & Knowlton executives were extremely well connected to the Reagan and Bush I administrations. It also points out how the two politicians who held the House Human Rights Caucus hearing where the incubator story was told also used for one of their foundations, free of charge, office space in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington, DC office.

One Response to “Why Everyone Needs to Know About Wendell Potter”

  1. […] I don’t support it because it’s socialism, which it isn’t. For more on the dreaded S word and other reform lies spread by the health insurance industry and its highly paid PR companies read Why Everyone Needs to Know About Wendell Potter. […]

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