July 19, 2009

Bill Moyers and Amy Goodman have already interviewed Wendell Potter and I was wondering who the first person in the "main stream media" would be to bring him on. I thought it might end up being Rachel Maddow, but it turned out to be Ed Schultz instead. Good for Ed.

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. The Republican sound machine is in full force against health care.

We gave you the "Playbook," in fact back on May 6th on this program, we went through the right wing`s messaging machine playbook; it`s a 28-page strategy memo from Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He told the Republicans to hammer basically four things when it comes to reform, that reform would be a "government takeover" by Washington bureaucrats. It would "ration" your health care. And get "between you and your doctor."


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) MINORITY LEADER: The advocates of a government takeover of health care are talking about spending trillions more, trillions more.

SEN. MIKE ENZI (R), WYOMING: This bill will allow Washington bureaucrats to ration care. The bill lays the groundwork for a government takeover of healthcare, giving Washington bureaucrats the power to prevent patients from seeing the doctor they choose.

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS: The federal programs, agencies, commissions and mandates that will be in between the patient and their health care provider, their doctor. Why would any patient be forced to give control of their health care decisions over to this Faustian web of Washington bureaucracy?


SCHULTZ: Well, you`ve got to admit they do their homework when you ever give them anything to learn, you know.

Big insurance is lining is pockets of lawmakers. Big insurance only cares about their profits. They want lawmakers to protect their backyard, their profits. They`re voting against reforms that would really be good for consumers.

But I don`t want you to take my word for it. I want you to pay attention to this next interview. We have a former insurance insider.

Joining me now is Wendell Potter. He is a senior fellow on health care for the center for media and democracy. He`s also a former vice president for the insurance giant Cigna.

Mr. Potter, good to have you with us tonight. I appreciate your time. Is the industry telling the truth to the American people and telling the truth to those in the Congress?

WENDELL POTTER, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR MEDIA & DEMOCRACY: No, they`re not. And that`s one of the reasons why I left my job at Cigna and why I decided to speak out. I didn`t want to be a part of that -- those lies and misleading statements once again.

I`ve been a part of them in the past and I just didn`t want to do that again.

SCHULTZ: Where are the insurance companies making their big profits when it comes to health care? What are they doing to consumers?

POTTER: What they`re doing to consumers is, number one -- they`re shifting a lot more of the financial burden from them and the employers onto the shoulders of working men and women. And they also are very actively looking at claims when they`re submitted. And they`re acting -- taking action to dump people when they`re sick, either in the individual market or in the small groups.

So a lot of small employers no longer can afford health care because of the actions taken by the insurance companies to get rid of them when their employees` claims are a little bit higher than the underwriters expected.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Potter, do you think that there`s a lot of people in the industry that feel the same way you did but just didn`t follow the action you took?

POTTER: Absolutely, I know there are. I`ve gotten just dozens, actually hundreds of e-mails from people that I have worked with in the past. And most of them now former Cigna employees and employees of other companies who know me and have sent me communications to sell me, "I wish I had done that."

There are many who feel the same way.

SCHULTZ: Now, Mr. Potter recently the inspector general`s office came out with a report earlier this week stating that this out-of-network expense to Americans hits about 100 million Americans who are dealing in the health care industry, that want insurance and whatnot. And Senator Rockefeller has told us clearly that the American people are getting ripped off.

Do you think Congress believes that the American people are getting ripped off, and now of course we`ve got this inspector general`s office report to back it up? What don`t they get about what`s going on?

POTTER: I don`t think they`ve been paying attention. I think if they had been paying attention and weren`t -- as you put it -- their pockets being lined with contributions from the industry, I think that they would be outraged and it would be very willing to take action to make sure that we have a reformed, functional health care system in this country.

SCHULTZ: How much do you think they want to defeat the public option?

POTTER: Well, they`re pulling out all the stops. That`s why you`re seeing the same talking points they`ve used over the years being trotted out again. They`re ever green talking points.

They will say one thing on -- the industry is engaged in what I call the charm defense in saying that they`re all for reform; but behind the scenes, working with their allies to gut it. The public option is one of the things that they pretty much have drawn a line in the sand saying, "We can`t accept that."

SCHULTZ: And finally, Mr. Potter, give the American people, our viewers tonight, a sense who`s winning this battle. We`ve never seen a president go this far against Washington lobbyists. We`ve never seen a president go this far against the establishment when it comes to health care.

There`s a lot of pressure on the Democrats to get this done. They`ve got 60 Democrats in the Senate. They`ve got a bunch in the House. Some of the conservative Democrats are still wavering a bit. But who do you think is winning this battle right now?

POTTER: I think the president is winning. I think the advocates for health care reform are winning. It may not seem that way, when we see a headline like we saw the other day in the "Wall Street Journal," about the CBO estimating that we can`t afford it.

We can`t afford not to do this. I think the president can communicate that more as time goes by and as Congress really gets down to business. I think that we`ll see reform this time and meaningful reform.

SCHULTZ: How do the folks at Cigna treat you now?

POTTER: I haven`t heard anything from them. I`m not surprised. A lot of my former colleagues have been -- who are no longer -- who like me, former colleagues, have been contacting me. I didn`t expect that they would be visibly attacking me or even communicating with me, and they haven`t been.

SCHULTZ: Finally, why are you doing this? You did a very compelling interview with Bill Moyers. We tried to get you on the program before; I appreciate you being here tonight.

This is a brave position, I think. This is one that`s unusual for someone who worked and lived and profited in the corporate world. Why are you doing this?

POTTER: Two reasons. One, I left my job because I didn`t like where the industry was taking this country in terms of the insurance products it`s now selling. They`re pushing these so-called consumer-driven plans that are pushing more, as you put it, as you noted, of the financial burden onto consumers. We can`t afford that. The median household income is $50,000 in this country, we can`t afford more cost shifting.

Secondly, I didn`t want to be part of the lying machine again. I didn`t want to be misrepresenting reality like the industry has done and its allies have done for many years.

SCHULTZ: Ok, Mr. Potter, I appreciate your time tonight. Come back and join us again. And thanks for speaking the truth to the American people and telling us what`s going on.

POTTER: Thank you for this opportunity.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

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