Whistleblowing on Wealth Care

Former CIGNA employee discusses his new insurance industry exposé novel.

Former public relations representative at CIGNA Wendell Potter speaks about the health care reform Wednesday afternoon at Coffman Union Bookstore. Potter resigned his position at the Health Insurance Company CIGNA in 2008 and wrote his book “Deadly Spin” which talks about many of the tactics used by public relations and health insurance corporations.

Erin Westover

Former public relations representative at CIGNA Wendell Potter speaks about the health care reform Wednesday afternoon at Coffman Union Bookstore. Potter resigned his position at the Health Insurance Company CIGNA in 2008 and wrote his book “Deadly Spin” which talks about many of the tactics used by public relations and health insurance corporations.

Grace Gouker

Despite the recent claims of the health insurance industryâÄôs displeasure with President Barack ObamaâÄôs Health Care Reform Bill, there is reason to believe that the industry actually wants reform. Who would have guessed?

Wendell Potter, writer of âÄúDeadly Spin,âÄù did. His insider experience with the health insurance industry, as degrading as it was, makes him optimistic about their stance. The author spoke Wednesday at the University of Minnesota Bookstore on his experience.

âÄúThey wanted to have the requirement that all of us buy insurance from them âÄî that was their No. 1 objective,âÄù Potter said of the industryâÄôs interest in the bill.

This shrewd statement comes after political threats Republicans have made toward health care reform. Potter, a former high-profile public relations worker at health insurance giant CIGNA, is skeptical of the smokescreen to sway voters.

âÄúThe rhetoric will try to make us think that these consumer protections are too expensive,âÄù Potter said, âÄúthat it will result in higher premiums. ThatâÄôs the new spin that weâÄôre going to be hearing.âÄù

Potter, after acting as spokesperson for CIGNAduring the devastating liver transplant case of 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, soon realized his overwhelming detestation of the insurance industryâÄôs practices.

âÄú[CIGNA] refused to pay for the liver transplant that [SarkisyanâÄôs] doctors said could save her life,âÄù Potter said.

After the young girlâÄôs plight received extensive media coverage, the company reassessed its policy. Its revised decision came too late, however âÄî Sarkisyan died just a few hours before the operation could be performed.

The case is outlined in âÄúDeadly Spin,âÄù along with several others he faced as CIGNAâÄôs spokesman. He soon became a whistleblower, exposing several horrifying âÄî yet unsurprising âÄî cases within his company and throughout the health insurance realm.

âÄúI was just sick of being a spinmeister. I was sick of trying to make people think a certain way,âÄù Potter said.

However, PotterâÄôs disgust at industry practices only furthers his belief that the bill will remain intact.

âÄúTheyâÄôre turning away great customers,âÄù said Wendell of the current state of the industry. âÄúThey need to have a requirement that all of us buy their products, and if we donâÄôt, weâÄôll be penalized, and if we canâÄôt afford it, then the government will subsidize our premium.âÄù

The bill came too late for Sarkisyan and others to benefit from it, but her story and PotterâÄôs novel as a whole increase the gravitas of the situation sevenfold. âÄúDeadly SpinâÄù reveals to its readers the truth we already know: The health care system is failing, and the change put in progress benefits the industry itself as well as its patients.