August 15, 2009

Add Anderson Cooper to the list of main stream media hosts that at least bothered to have industry whistleblower Wendell Potter on their show. Cooper is just shocked that right wing writers and radio hosts are taking their talking points from the insurance industry. I wasn't surprised given they're already reading off all of the RNC talking points for the day that are sent to them.

COOPER: You say that insurance companies intentionally -- and I quote you -- "confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy Wall Street investors."

How are they intentionally confusing customers and dumping the sick?

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER EXECUTIVE, CIGNA: Well, they confuse customers by not just being transparent, by not providing the information that -- a lot of us need.

A lot of people don't know that their insurance is inadequate. And that's why so many people are finding that they are in the ranks of the underinsured, because they just don't have any idea that their -- their coverages are not good enough.

They dump the sick by purposely looking at applications when someone files or has medical claims, whether you have a major illness or a major accident. If you buy your insurance through the individual marketplace, outside of your employer, you have to disclose whether or not you have had a preexisting condition.

If you leave something out, if you forget something, or don't even know something that is relevant that might be in some doctors' notes, the insurance company will use that as justification to cancel your policy.

COOPER: The forms I have seen on my insurance things are incredibly complicated. They make your head hurt. Are you saying that is intentional?

POTTER: It is very intentional. These companies make billions of dollars a year. They could certainly make these forms a lot clearer and a lot more easily understood. But it's not a priority.

COOPER: CIGNA, for the record, denies that they dump customers.

And they told us -- and I quote -- that "CIGNA complies with all regulatory requirements regarding setting rates and policy terms, consistent with our mission to provide individuals with a path to health, well-being and sense of security."

COOPER: Is that kind of statement you used to write?

POTTER: It is. And I'm not surprised.

For one thing, the regulations are not adequate to protect consumers. That's one thing. And it should be part of reform to keep this kind of from happening.

Senator Rockefeller, in the Senate, has asked CIGNA and I'm sure probably other insurers to come and make sure that they are telling the truth, because you can look through transcripts when these executives talk to Wall Street analysts, and you will hear them use the word purge. So, it is there. They -- they -- they acknowledge it. They say they do when they're talking to analysts, but they say they don't when they are talking to other people.

COOPER: You are also alleging that the health care industry right now is engaging in what you say are dirty tricks to stop health care reform from being passed.

What kind of dirty tricks are you talking about? And just specifically, to be clear, are you accusing CIGNA of engaging in these tactics?

POTTER: Not CIGNA. I'm talking about the industry, because, during my career, I served on a lot of industry committees through the trade associations and on a lot of trade groups that were funded by the -- oh, excuse me -- front groups that were funded by the industry.

The way it works is that the industry will hire big P.R. firms that create these front groups that have names that have no association with the insurance industry, and it is these front groups that do the things that you are seeing right now, that try to destroy health care reform by using terms like government takeover of the health care system, or we are heading down toward a slippery slope toward socialism, or we're going to kill your grandpa because of this health care reform bill.

COOPER: You're saying that language is written by insurance companies?

POTTER: Absolutely.

COOPER: But, I mean, the folks who are showing up at these meetings, I mean, they are not being backed by -- they're not being paid to go there. I mean, there is a legitimate anger. There is a legitimate opposition, concern not just about health care, but about massive deficits and government intrusion.

POTTER: Yes, the other thing that they do, the other way that they work is the P.R. firms have very good connections with people that those folks listen to.

They have very close ties with the conservative radio talk show hosts and commentators and editorial page writers, and they feed the talking points. They feed the...


COOPER: Did you used to do that?

POTTER: I did, absolutely.

COOPER: What do you mean feed talking points to radio talk show hosts?

POTTER: Well, these P.R. firms have very close ties, they have good relationships with the producers, with the talk show hosts themselves, that will say, look, you need to understand this about health care reform or you need to know that, if this bill passes, then this is going to represent a government takeover the health care system.

It is not true, but it is the kind of language that the talk show host will welcome, because it is ideologically in synch with their world view.

COOPER: Interesting discussion.

Wendell Potter, we would like to have you back. Thank you very much.

POTTER: Thank you very much.

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