Potter: Insurers Use ‘Scare Tactics’ To Oppose Reform, Disrupt Town Halls
Wendell Potter, a former Cigna vice president turned industry critic, is charging that insurers are inciting opposition to health reform and that there is an indirect link between insurers and disruptive town hall protests, Roll Call reports. The industry is adept at "using scare tactics to turn public opinion against any reforms that affect profitability," Potter said at a news conference Wednesday. Potter's appearance, alongside House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., "comes as the Democrats have shifted their message to target insurers" (Dennis, 8/12).
Potter also cited earlier public and government relations campaigns, including "front groups created to fight 'Patients' Bill of Rights' legislation in the 1990s, as well as a campaign to discredit the Michael Moore film 'Sicko,' which harshly criticized the industry," The Hill reports. Karen Ignagni, the president of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group, wrote in a letter to lawmakers last week, "There is no truth to the allegation that AHIP's employee grassroots program is responsible for disruptive and inappropriate tactics at health care town hall meetings" (Soraghan, 8/12).
Potter quit his job at Cigna in 2007, saying he left because of the company's "controversial handing of an insurance claim by the family of Nataline Sarkysian," CNN reports. Sarkysian died after Cigna denied coverage for a liver transplant; the insurer reversed its decision and said it would pay for the procedure hours before the California teenager died. Potter now works for the Center for Media and Democracy, where he writes a blog. "Potter insists he has no agenda just a deep passion for the issue," CNN reports (Hornick and Quijano, 8/12).