On Monday, January 17, over one hundred brave souls trudged through several inches of Wisconsin snow to see Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) Senior Fellow on Health Care, visit Madison's Goodman Community Center as part of his cross-country tour signing Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans.
Wendell discussed his critically-acclaimed book, but also shared his thoughts on the GOP's attempt to "repeal" the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare"). "Here's the reality," he said. "It ain't going to be repealed."
Echoing sentiments made in his recent op-ed for CMD, Wendell explained that the real objective is to strip the Act of provisions in the law that Big Business and the insurance industry dislike, and preserve the sections that benefit their bottom line. In particular, calls for "repeal" will likely result in preserving the "individual mandate" that requires all Americans to purchase an inadequate product from insurance companies, and eliminating the provisions that actually benefit the average person: the section that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums we pay on our medical care (restricting their ability to spend our payments on salaries and profit), the section that allows parents to cover their kids until age 26, or the provisions that restrict insurers from dumping sick patients, or from discriminating against the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions.
Drawing from his experience as a top PR executive for insurance giants Humana and CIGNA, Wendell advised the audience that the insurance industry's messaging strategy will include describing the Affordable Care Act as a "one-size-fits-all" failure, and that insurers will claim the provisions must be removed to allow "greater flexibility to meet the needs of Americans."
Wendell also discussed his work with the insurance industry to discredit Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, as he discussed in an interview on Keith Olbermann's Countdown. While Wendell recognized that Sicko's portrayal of America's health care system was mostly correct, he and other insurance executives unleashed a PR offensive to discredit the movie, which included setting up elaborate front groups and successfully embedding talking points in the mainstream media "to make Moore radioactive to centrist Democrats in particular" and to dismiss health care reform as a "government takeover." Thanks to all who braved the weather to attend this great event! For those who missed it, Wendell Potter's book tour schedule can be found here; read his articles for the Center for Media and Democracy here.