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October 13th, 2009
10:00 AM ET

Ex-insider: Insurance industry report is bogus

The Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill got high marks from the Congressional Budget Office for keeping the deficit down, but now insurance companies say it will actually cost you and your family thousands of dollars more than you’re paying now.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/13/potter.wendell.art.jpg caption="Wendell Potter says the insurance industry has been disingenuous from the beginning of the health care reform debate."]

Wendell Potter worked for two different insurance companies in the past, and now he's working against them to help get reform passed. He says the claims from this new report from an insurance industry trade group are just not true.

Potter spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday. Below is an edited transcript of that interview.

John Roberts: On March 5th, at a White house conference on health care reform, Karen Ignani, who is the president and CEO of AHIP – American's Health Insurance Plans – stands up and addresses the president. She says, “We want to work with you. We want to work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. You have our commitment.”

So just six months ago, Wendell, there was American's Health Insurance Plans standing up, saying we want to work with you on health care reform. Just yesterday they came out with this study, this PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which is a scathing criticism of the so-called Baucus Bill in the Senate Finance Committee. What changed between then and now?

Wendell Potter: You know, what happened on that March day – that summit at the White House – was what made me decide to become a critic of the industry, because that was the beginning of their charm offensive, the part of the PR campaign that they want us to see, they want us to hear. And what we saw – what we're seeing now is the other side of that; their efforts behind the scenes and now more publicly to defeat reform. And it's all an effort to try to shape reform, if they can, or kill it if they can, but shape it for their benefit and at the benefit of Wall Street shareholders, more than Americans.

Roberts: Are you suggesting that Karen Ignagni was being disingenuous during that meeting?

Potter: I think the industry has been disingenuous from the beginning of this debate. They have never had any intention of being good faith partners with the president and Congress. And I know this from having been a part of many, many efforts over the past 20 years, almost, to defeat reform, or to help shape reform to the industry's benefit. And I was a part of some of the efforts to plan this very campaign.

Roberts: AHIP’s initial problem was with the public option, which is not in the Senate bill, but now they're saying, wait a minute, there aren't stiff enough penalties for people who don't buy health insurance. That's the new beef. What's that all about?

Potter: You know, it's an argument – it's probably the best case that I've heard from anybody why we need a public health insurance option. What they're saying is, in fact, they bought and paid for this report from an outfit, you know, that's worked for them and done many reports like this over many years. They've taken selective parts of the bill – not even bothering to read the full bill or take some other elements into consideration – and are claiming that the bill, if enacted, would raise premiums. It's nonsense. It would not work the way that they're saying. In fact, one of the authors admitted, apparently late yesterday, that they did not take into consideration other important elements of the bill.

Roberts: So let me stop you there and just drill down on this claim that they're making, that the health care bill that's now in the Senate Finance Committee would add hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to the cost of a health insurance package for most people and families. You're saying that that's just not true?

Potter: It's just not true, because they're taking the parts of the bill that the industry now does not like. What the Finance Committee did, fortunately, toward the end of last week was reduce some of the very, very severe penalties that the insurance industry wanted to have in the bill that would be assessed against us if we decide we don't want to buy their overpriced and inadequate products that are often nothing more than fake insurance.

Roberts: So how do they go forward and make such a claim if it's just patently not true?

Potter: Because they can. Because they know they can often get away with it and they know that they've got a lot of shills on Capitol Hill. One thing we'll be able to see over the next, you know, today and the coming days, is whether or not people will be revealing themselves as the industry shills by quoting from this bogus report.

Roberts: All right. So if it comes down to a fight between America's Health Insurance Plans and the White House, who do you think is going to win?

Potter: My money's on the White House on this one, because I think that the people are behind the White House and the Congress and I think the industry knows that. This is a desperation move on the part of the insurance industry, because analysts are now somewhat concerned – Wall Street analysts – that the bill may not be absolutely, everything that the industry wants, and that's what's driving this – Wall Street's expectations that this bill may not be everything they'd hoped and prayed for.

Roberts: And you said this is the greatest argument for a public option that you have heard to date, but do you think this could breathe new life into the idea of a public option?

Potter: I think it already is. From what I'm hearing, people who have been trying and working really in good faith to get legislation passed are now knowing that a public option is one of the most important ways to try to keep this industry honest. Without the public option, you know, these companies will continue to have the free reign they've had over the last several years, and they will, indeed, raise our prices, our premiums to the point that we can't afford them and more and more people will be in the ranks of the underinsured.


Filed under: Politics
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Tom

    Wendell Potter is obviously a disgruntled former insurance company employee. His comments are in large part unsubstantiated personal opinion. Why would you waste time interviewing such an obviously biased individual? Wouldn't it make sense to find someone who is both knowledgeable and unbiased to interview on this important issue?

    October 13, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  2. Larry

    Stop the name calling and tell us, if you can, what is not factual in the report? Sen B say's the cost increase is not true, but refuses to tell us what he thinks will be the cost to the average American, saying "is it to complicated to forecast". Does that mean he doesn't know the long term impact on average American? Your crying foul would work better if you could give us facts, not these one over the world "it's a bogus report",outburst. I beleive you think the American people aren't smart enought to conprehened your recommendations, or may you don't understand them.; or more sadly you think if you told us the true, your social agenda would go down the toilet where it belongs!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  3. Norman G. Kirkendall

    I totally believe their should be a public option to keep the insurance companies in line and to keep premiums and prices low as possible; otherwise, the insurance companies are still in control and win again. The Government offers automobile insurance and they haven't taken over and run private companies out of business and neither will the proposed health plan, so lets put the public option in and get on with the best health care plan available.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  4. Penny Tegen

    This year the company I work for forced us to switch from Definity (United Health) to Aetna. I absolutely do not like the changes that have occured. My doctor can no longer remove moles unless they appear cancerous because AETNA considers them 'cosmetic' and not covered unless needing biopsy.

    Every office visit must be separate. A single visit can not cover individual separate reasons. This makes me take off work multiple times when a single visit with multiple billings used to be possible with Definity.

    I used to be able to have the laboratory blood work performed in advance of a physical so that the results could be discussed at the time of the physical. Now AETNA requires the lab work done on the day of the physical so a second visit will be necessary in order to discuss the results with my doctor.

    AETNA dental would not cover a bridge I needed. My teeth are shifting and food (mostly peanuts and almonds) were getting jammed in the gap. The dentist sent in an extensive explanation regarding the necessity of a bridge, but AETNA would not cover it. This was very expensive.

    Now AETNA is offering a nurse on the telephone as a counsellor. I really don't want a counsellor – my doctor does that - I want better medical coverage. I want to go back to Definity and the coverage I used to get!!!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  5. PR MICHIGAN

    Is this Potter and the whole rest of the insurance buying public the only ones smart enough to see through the talk of this industry! If there is not some sort of true competition public or otherwise . These people will take us all to the cleaners. If anyone in Washington thinks anything else, I've got a bridge for sale!!!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  6. David

    Allow country wide providers including non profits.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  7. James

    what if we just give our entire paycheck to the insurance companies and have them give us what they feel we should have to live on?

    October 13, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  8. Chris

    It's time to take the insurance companies out of the equation all together and give the money directly to the Hospitals and in turn they pay the doctors. Hospitals could be closely regulated unlike the insurance compaines. It's a win win for all and a pipe dream. But look all the money that will be saved and all the people who won't ever have to worry about insurance.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  9. Dave Durango, CO

    So the insurance companies lied and CNN covered it like a fact. Go fig. I thought part of the job was checking "facts". I don't trust our industries in the USA any more. The insurance companies should be completely eliminated from healthcare if they cannot be honest.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  10. Irv

    I'm going into surgery this morning and I agree with Mr. Potter. We need a way to keep the insurance industry reasonable in their profit making and a public option might do it.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  11. Glenn

    Any business, including insurance businesses exist to make a profit. Government's only intervention should be to stimulate competition. That is, stimulate competition among for-profit businesses. Not to compete for-profit businesss against not-for-profit business (either the gov option or not-for profit co-ops).

    October 13, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  12. Robert J

    Well...While I appreciate this insight very much and I am sure that is truthful and factual. I don't beleieve we'll see anyone from the "party of no" get on board to help the American people.
    Of course they will fight tooth and nail for their rich insurance friends to get richer so they can.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  13. Gentwelve

    Conservative backed lies and prpoganda, this is getting ridiculous.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  14. Much Smarter Than John Roberts

    Who is this Wendell Potter? He obviously was an insignificant player in the insurance realm or you would have gone on and on about his past titles and accomplishments. So let me get this straight, you take this Potter guy that nobody has ever heard of and do an interview with his opinions on what this new report is all about and this is supposed to be earth shattering? Wow John, great investigative journalism! We all know that CNN is the mouth piece for the liberal left but at least try to disguise it a little John. Then perhaps people might take CNN seriously again.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  15. billy gisher

    All of this presumes there are enough people in America that not only read everything Congress puts out about these bills, but are energetic and angry enough to let their voices be heard. My money is on those people who only read partisan propaganda, if they actually are literate enough to read anything. The Americans who do not form their own opinions, and who are force fed their opinions from their favorite pundits.

    In a country where millions of Americans are so poorly informed as to actually believe that humans rode around on the backs of dinosaurs, and these same people are the loudest most obnoxious voices heard, I seriously doubt that any bill that finally exits congress will have anyone's self-interest in mind outside of the Insurance Industry that has become quite skilled at leading sheep around by the nose.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  16. Johnny

    Gooo President Obama, you can do it. Money is driving the insurance industry profits. Big insurance companies have demonstrated for to long that their way is the wrong way. When deceit is the agenda for lobbyis (shills) on capital hill with favors attached, then Insurance feels they are untouchable. So did those mobsters throughout the years. Insurance, you are no "Teflon Dons". Ha Ha, President Obama will make all the Big Insurance Companies tuck their tail and run for the hills with Americas premiums over paid for the last 20 years. Now is the time for the Justice Department and Treasury to go after these deceitfull executives and CEO's for their part in demoralizing the insurance industry. A life to them is nothing, but a life to a mother and father for their children is everything.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  17. marva

    It has always been my personal opinion that IF the government is going to MANDATE that citizens purchase health insurance, then, a public option MUST be available! Personally, I am the beneficiary of a government-sponsored health care plan. But, reform is absolutely necessary and a PUBLIC OPTION must be available for our children and grandchildren ... my son was temporarily layed off earlier this year and suddenly found himself and his family without health coverage. His employer paid the premiums for HIS coverage, but my son paid for the family coverage. Oddly, premiums are always paid in advance – but, once terminated for any reason, coverage ceases the MOMENT of termination ... no refund of premiums not used. COBRA offered to continue coverage at a cost of $5000 per month - that's not a typo, folks! $5000 per month. Had he been working, he could not have afforded that! He most certainly could not afford it while unemployed! He and his family were without health coverage for 7 months! By the grace of God, neither he nor his family were injured or became seriously ill during that period. But, had a PUBLIC OPTION been available, he and his family would have been covered! Without a public option, the insurance industry will have no incentive to keep premiums affordable for the working-class.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  18. Kayla

    Potter,

    We need more people like you to step up and tell the truth about health care and straighten out the facts. Thank you for doing your part to help the many people in this country who currently can not afford health care.

    Kayla Cooper

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  19. richard from Sugar Land Tx

    I believe the Insurance companies are blowing smoke also...It doesn't make sense that they would raise premiums if the public option was offered. They say they would have to off set they loss of policy holders by increasing premiums....well if they did that and made their "choice" prohibitively expensive then everyone would move to the public option....simple economics in a compettive market...but like many of the oligarchies in this ever non free market place they want to scare us into making bad decisions for their ever greedy pockets....and it usually works....hopefully not this time!!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  20. Ian

    More pro-health care "reform" propaganda brought to you by CNN.com ... has anyone noticed that they ONLY run supportive pieces like this one and never contrary viewpoints??

    I can't wait until all the ex-1960's era hippies die and we can get some honest and fair reporting standards back in our mainstream media.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  21. robert

    Healthcare reform at the taxpayer cost for the benefit of corporate america....That's our politicians working for us....ha selling us downriver more like it just to fill their back pockets....

    thanks but no thanks

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  22. Laurie

    The only way we are going to reform the health care industry to make it affordable is to remove the for profit status of health insurers, and change the fee for service payment scheme used by doctors and hospitals today. Otherwise, Americans will keep paying more to cover excessive managent pay and bonus structures, and doctors will continue to pursue the more expensive treatments (not always the bast treaments) to make more profit. It's really that simple.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  23. jen

    Potter is right, Insurance Industry is nothing but a fraud – Health care reform now!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  24. jim

    People are watching and waiting. If the public option goes through than illegals will get health care. The goverment does not want to pick up the tab for them anymore. Instead of dealin with illegal immigrates health care problem, the goverment is going to have us pay for it through higher fees (taxes) and cutting benefits.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  25. Ted Tartaglia

    I think this guy is right on. Too many of our Congressmembers and Senators are nothing but shills for the insurance industry. Too many of our legislators are working for those who make large campaign contributions and not for the people who elected them.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  26. Steve Smith

    So, while employed by insurance companies he was on their side but now employed by a "socially responsible" organization he's against them. The man has an ax to grind and says nothing that is verifiable. This is exactly what is wrong with the entire debate. Let's get to facts instead of finger pointing. How about breaking down the assumptions and methods of this analysis? That would serve the public debate much more than this nonsense.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  27. Dave

    This is a beautiful piece of biased journalism. For starters I am for reform ( just not liberal reform where cost is not very important) and don't particularly like insurance companies. Mr. Potter is a political hack working for a leftist organization headed by John Podesta who isas card carrying leftist. Why is this not disclosed in this piece?
    As well Mr. Roberts says the Senate Finance Committee got high marks for keeping the deficit down. The CBO is an honest group but they are generally historically wrong by huge numbers when it comes to estimating the costs of any major legislation. Mr. Pottert wants legislation that would be even more costly with a government option yet he is being quoted as some sort of expert.
    This is journalism at its worst. Mr. Roberts is becoming an advocate for the Obama administration. Let's have reform that has the right healthy behavioral incentives, competition with minimal government involvement, tort reform, less defensive medicine and incentives to encourage shopping by consumers where they care aboout costs.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  28. B.R.

    Apparently no one is capable of forming coherent, substantive arguments.

    Potter's entire response consisted of nay-saying, not argumentative proof.

    "they will, indeed, raise our prices, our premiums to the point that we can't afford them and more and more people will be...uninsured."

    So the insurance companies will raise prices until no one can afford their services so they.....make no more money?

    What a brilliant, reasoned rebuttal.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  29. ken

    Not sure who this guy is but he doesn't speak for me! I hate it when these people keep saying the american people are for this bill its just not true. The problem is they only listen to who they want to listen the other are branded as un-american. We don't need a total re-do of our help plan. Its very simple.
    1st- If your employed with your un-employment insurance you get health insurance.
    2th If you get a JOB that doesn't offer health insurance or that your only part time then you can elect to join a plan like the one above and pay the perimums (as a group it will be cheaper)
    3rd- Companys will only hire part time workers to keep from paying health care.
    4th The rest of us have health insurance like me I've had it for 33yrs raised a family and paid the premium no problem.

    Final thought NO ONE IN AMERICAN LEGAL OR ILLEGAL ARE EVER REFUSED HEALTH CARE PERIOD!! ITS AGAINST THE LAW.
    I think the Mr Potter just jumped ship to get his 15min of fame cause if he was to tell you the truth you put him on FOX not here. Companys like BCBS have done more to promote health care FOR FREE as does other insurance companys so why don't you write about what the do.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  30. James Bruce

    It seems that Mr. Roberts should have asked Mr. Potter for some specific evidence that elements of the report are untrue, or specific examples of the parts taken out of context, or the name of the "author." A professional interviewer should know better than to allow such broad and unsubstantiated generalities to be voiced on the public airwaves without being challenged. It's hard to believe what you hear when assertions are made without the least bit of evidence to support them.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  31. cheryl

    He's wrong. Start at the source. Start with the high rates doctors and hospitals charge, the unnecessary tests doctors order (and get paid for), the unnecessary drugs prescribed doctors get kick-backs for, the fact many doctors do not have to (and just simply don't) carry liablity insurance (and hopsitals allow it but never tell the patients).

    Sure insurance companies are out to make money, but the root of the problem is exactly that – at the root. I don't know a single doctor that has every gone bankrupt. Except for some inner-city hospitals, I don't know of a single hospital that has gone bankrupt. I see insurance companies as in the middle, and just passing along the 'raping of Americans' by their doctors and hospitals as just the end result.

    I speak from experience. I had an operation where the doctor (and hospital) colluded against my insurance company telling them false information so they could get my insurance company to pay for things I didn't need. (Claimed I had cancer when I didnt'.) Because the fraud was less than $100K, it wasn't worth the insurance company's time to investigate. My premiums went up because of this fraud. I couldn't sue because the doctor carried no liability insurance (as was allowed by the state and hospital).

    How many people are going to die (and families not get compensated) for the 100,000+ medical mistakes that will kill people this year? Not to mention the botched diagnosis, surgeries, etc. Look around people! Talk to people. Everyone I know has been misdiagnoses, dismissed, and 'abused' by a doctor. Yet, like the Seinfeld episode if you are 'difficult' you'll find it hard to find a doctor.

    Start at the source Congress. Quit blaming insurance companies. I had 6 tests there were extremely expensive I did not need, but my insurance company was obliged to pay, and pay they did in full.

    GO TO THE SOURCE! Start with making the 'practice' of medicine a non-profit practice. Don't allow the misfortune of a person be the profit center for a doctor and hospital, because that's how it is today. Just open your eyes. Doctors LOVE cancer patients because they are profit centers. Doctors guilt patients into taking therapies that won't extend nor help their condition and oftentimes lead to their demise.

    WAKE UP AMERICA!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  32. Ken G.

    Instead of "he said, they said" news stories, when are we going to see some real thorough and detailed reporting that fully, and independentaly, studies this report and the bills in question so that the public can be informed with the truth instead of this back and forth between the two or more sides on this matter.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  33. Chris

    Meant to say representatives not republicans

    October 13, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  34. Sherwood

    Health Insurance industry is like Big Oil, once they have got you they wont let go.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  35. Steve

    Nobody seems to get it...supply and demand. As we dole out insurance to all, demand will go up. As the baby boomers age, both demand will go up and supply will go down. The result is the unit price of healthcare will absolutely go up.

    What about eliminating health insurance completely? Why do you think Lasik eye surgery and cosmetic surgeries are relatively inexpensive compared to like surgeries covered by health insurance??? Because they have to compete in the market place for your dollars! Most people spend less than $1,000/year in medical expenses; few people spend more than $10,000. Why not eliminate medical insurance and have the government pay for claims over $5,000 for low income and $10,000 for middle income and not at all for high income? Anyone that has a claim under their cap is paying for preventive care, a minor illness, or for a claim due to their own lifestyle choices. My model will cause utilization to go down, encourage Americans to be healthier, cover all and lower the unit cost of healthcare. Obviously there are other details to work out, but the main idea is sound. As baby boomers retire, the vacuum could be filled with former insurance industry workers.

    By the way, I am an insurance broker...

    October 13, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  36. Chris

    Unfortunately the market system doesn't work in every aspect. At some level you have to be able to give individuals a chance to survive in this world. Makes absolutely no sense that every american shouldn't have food and adequate healthcare. Problem is Doctors, Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other individuals in the supply chain are bilking society out of money. Everybody knows it however when it comes down to actually doing it no one wants to take that leap. Now the country has an opportunity to make a change and you have those same ole idiots in Washington screwing things up. If you want to solve the problem in this country limit the length of time republicans and senators can preside. No one can convince me that this isn't part of the problem.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  37. Sandra, Atlanta

    I was not even in favor of a public option until I saw this new 'study' that the insurance companies came out with yesterday. Now I'm convinced that it is the ONLY thing that may help keep them honest.
    I do agree with Mr. Potter that you won't hear any pushback on Capitol Hill about what the insurance company has said and I am positive you will hear some of their paid for Congressmen and women using their talking points against reform.

    I am just not sure when the people in America will wake up.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  38. dan

    I've been calling it the Health Insurance Scam Industry (HISI) for years. It's good to know one of the insiders finally figured out that the HISI was hurting us more than helping and decided to talk about it. This guy should be on 10,000 commercials attacking the HISI from now until they break them up and make them non-profit. I't simmoral to profit on sickness. Every other civilized country knows that. Why are Americans putting up with this nonsense?

    October 13, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  39. Eric

    Ah, the public option... that's where I pay the government to wipe your nose and take care of you, instead of you doing it yourself.

    Has anyone even considered why health insurance is tied to our employers to begin with?

    Oh, that's right... starting in the 1940s (under Socialist FDR) it was a way for industry to get around government wage/price controls to compete for better employees. The government created the current problem we face, and now so many stupid and economically-illiterate people are just screaming for the government to provide the "fix" to the very problem the government created in the first place.

    It's time for a REAL market-based solution. Your iPhone isn't expensive. Neither is your incredibly well-powered laptop. In fact, they're staggeringly cheap and both have more computing power than the 1969 lunar module. Gee, I wonder why... could it be because the government hasn't f***ed up those particular industries yet, and real market forces are allowed to work?

    October 13, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  40. Uncle Ellsworthey

    He lost all credibility when he called PriceWaterhouseCoopers an "industry trade group". Maybe he needs to do a little research and stop making things up. They are anything but an "industry trade group" and are far more reliable than anything the Whitehouse can offer.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  41. leslie winn

    Mr. Potter knows where in he speaks. I have been in the insurance industry for over 35 years. (Although not medical).
    The principals are the same however. If there is no Public Option which competes directly with private insurers, they will continue to raise rates, deductibles and co pays, while reducing limits and constricting coverage.

    Big Med Insurers are not happy about sharing this public "pie" with big Pharma, so the next major coverage change you can expect will have to do with either not covering drugs still under patent (so no generic version available), or perhaps charging the consumer 80% of the cost of non generic drug on top of the deductible. If the average non generic prescription costs approximately $150 for a 30 day supply, under this scenario the co pay would be $120.

    Believe Mr. Potter. He is stating the truth. No public option gives the Insurance industry free rein to ride roughshod over all of us and they will, in fact, they have already promised to start! llw

    October 13, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  42. dbacchus

    Brilliant! Mr. Potter is a brave man...

    October 13, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  43. Charles

    We the people are NOT behind the White House on this insurance fiasco. People want straight honest answers not liberal bias for the president.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  44. Mike

    Thank god this insurance guy has morals.
    We need a public option for health insurance. The goal is to give people health care, not protecting insurance company profits.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  45. Nobody N. Particular

    I cannot understand how anyone could not see this, with Health Insurance reform comes regulation and that is what the industry is trying to kill. Just like the banking industry, AHIP is only concerned with making money, they couldn't care less about the people their decisions effect. We need a public option to keep these leeches from sucking the people dry.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  46. Randolph Carter

    Unfortunately, most Americans believe everything some talking head on TV tells them whether it's true or not. We need a public option. We will not get one thanks to campaign contributors and misinformed constituents screaming socialism at the prompting of their corporate masters. Have a nice day!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  47. alex

    I worked for PriceWaterhouse and I do not think they would tilt the report as much as described by your guest. If you give people an option to pay low penalty and then buy insurance only if they get sick, most of us will do economically wise thing and do it exactly that way.
    However, I still support public option as "cooperatives" across state lines in conjunction with malpractice reform.

    We also need to pass a law that US drug prices for brand name drugs cannot be higher than those paid by Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, and Canada. We should stop subsidizing the rest of the world – we can no longer afford it.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  48. blueken

    The healthcare industrial complex has consumend 17% of the GDP of this country. They have raised prices at 3 times the inflation rate. The CEO of United Health Care makes $34,000 an hour! They have failed us, and it's time for something different.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  49. Kevin

    So the Government Controlled Public Option is the only way to keep costs down? Can anyone please name ONE Government controlled program/project/initiative that has controlled costs and kept within any budget or budget estimate?

    It was a trick question...THERE IS NOT ONE!!!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  50. th

    I agree with him completely. My health insurance has gone up at least 12% for the past 3 years. It is ridiculous when they wages are stagnant.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  51. Ron

    What a country! Seems like everybody is out to screw us "middle class" folks. Capitalism at its finest! Thanks America.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  52. Kris

    What is WRONG with Americans who take their directives from the Ins. Company? Are you kidding me? The Ins. Companies are the most crooked folks in America. They have been for years! The Insurance companies have to be reeled in, and it has to be now! This country is in a Health Care Melt Down. I have a great job with “good Ins.” (there is no such thing as good Ins. Anymore). Get these animals under control. Lets see real health care reform and I mean NOW!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  53. Art

    I worked for 5 different Insurance Companies, finally realizing that the industry is the pinnacle of corruption & collusion in the the business world. They truly will say &/or do ANYTHING do add to their greedy bottom line. This scares them because for perhaps the first time, something might force a degree of legitamacy upon them. It's about time...

    October 13, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  54. john

    Insurance companies wants more profits at the expense of american lives; Now lets see who on capital hill (senators and congressmen) is working for the Insurance companies ...

    October 13, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  55. JC

    Porter's argument is as vague, over-simplified and myopic as the insurance lobby. PriceWaterhouseCooper's report focuses on the possible cost increases the middle-class is expected to inherit. Now Porter can take exception on those grounds and have a better case for his argument. The fact that he doesn't shows he's as much a shill to the Baucus Bill and the administration as those congressmen who disagree with him.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  56. HJA

    To profit on people's illness and misfortune is pure evil. The scum in these big coporations care nothing about the people or the country. Greed is what drives them. Wall Street is no friend of the people either. Wall Street should be under strict control as a private company. As of now Wall Street can freely manipulate our economy to maximize profits. You think your $50K or $500K invested is big? The real power in WallStreet is measured in the billions. They could take your chump change anytime they want. Manipulate and control...thats the real power.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  57. Paul

    This whole interview is bogus. John Roberts and Potter are basically biased in their thoughts so it really doesn't reveal anything. In order for covering pre-existing conditions to work everybody has to have insurance. The basic principle of insurance is to spread out liabilities, and that means having both healthy and sick people on the plan to lower the cost of premiums. This goes for a private insurance policy OR a government policy. However, a government policy could take the hit because they can just take more money from tax payers and drive up the debt. If the penalties for not getting health insurance are really low then this plan is bogus.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  58. Qing Jiang

    Thank you, Mr. Potter. Yes, we need a public option.
    I don't understand how can "private insurance companies will be driven out of biz if government is involved" be a valid argument. Health insurance is about public heath, which by nature should be taken care of by government. It is not something the private sector should make profits from.
    I also don't understand how come the republicans for a sudden care so much about costs. First, what's the costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars and what do we get from them? Second, health care is more about moral than money. The republicans like to claim themselves Christians. Unfortunately and obviously, that's a false claim.

    Jerry

    October 13, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  59. Eric Kasen

    Once again you are missing the point. The big bad insurance industry passes 85 – 90% of the premium they collect back to the provider community (Doctors, Hospitals, Nurse's, Paramedic, Ambulance etc. etc.). This leaves them with 10-15% to pay their employee's, pay taxes, keep the lights on, buy pencils, pens etc. and squeeze out an average industry Margin of 3% on premiums collected. Mandating insurance companies to eliminate coverage for Pre-Existing Conditions (for example good, bad or indifferent) will leade to higher costs to insurance plans and that will translate to higher premiums. The problem is many people don't take health insurance when they are healthy and therefore are not paying into the pot to keep the costs down or to offset costs for the unhealthy. By mandating insurance companies to pay all pre existing conditions you are supporting those who decide to stay out of the pool until they need to be in, so time goes by with no premiums collected from those individuals until they jump in when they need the care. Just one example of the government creating higher cost. The penalty associated with not buying insurance (proposed in the legislation) is significantly less than the cost to purchase the insurance itself, so again and incentive to those who are healthy and don't want to pay would be to simply pay the penalty and only buy the insurance once they become ill. This will also serve to drive costs up to those who are purchasing insurance as a group healthy or not. Much more of what is being proposed misses the real problem with cost, Tort Reform must be implemented so that the provider community can focus on quality of care rather than expensive defensive medicine. I would challenge Obama to a debate and have on the real issues that need to be addressed to reform the system and the expense. The culprit is not simply the insurance companies alone.
    Eric Kasen

    October 13, 2009 at 11:32 am |
  60. kathy

    I feel all insurance companies are bogus. They could care less wether you are covered or not. They will always be concerned about covering their own ass and now the least bit concerned about the well being of the patient. Their priority is show me the money and not cover as much as we can get away with. What a pathetic bunch!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  61. Donna Bergman

    I'm so glad to see someone who was associated with the insurance industry, telling the truth about how the insurance companies are taking unfair advantage of policy holders by raising their premiums and covering less. They deny coverage to those who they claim have "pre-existing conditions". It's clear that the insurance industry does not care about people's health and well-being. They only care about making money. That's why there shouldn't be any health care for profit. The ideal health care system should be Medicare For All. Medicare is still the best health care plan that we have yet. It's simple and fair. Medicare for all could be phased in year by year until everyone is covered from birth to death. It would be good for everyone. Thank you to all those who are trying to make adequate health care available for all American non-seniors.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  62. Mike Byrne

    We know the bill is good when big pharma and the insurance industries are up in arm about it. One down and one to go! Now we need to negotiate drug prices with the pharma companies like every other country in the world. Having corporations set prices for drugs is unamerican and boarders on fascism.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  63. Jeff of Peoria

    They must have really pissed this guy off to get him to get out and make himself look like an ASS. To anybody that understands this whole concept of insurance on ANYTHING what they say is true. Your insurance rates are going to skyrocket.

    If you don't understand this just listen to the Social Security talk. VERY SIMPLE:

    TOO MUCH MONEY OUT and NOT ENOUGH MONEY IN = BANKRUPT and the only thing you can do is INCREASE THE MONEY IN.

    Look at your checking account. Same thing. It's really very simple.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  64. Phoenix

    Of course, the insurance industry would like you to forget the fact that the more people who have insurance, and are paying into the insurance pool, the LESS it should cost for everyone. The only reason it would cost more is if the execs give themselves bigger paychecks.

    The argument that healthy people will decide not to get insurance so it will result in mainly sick people paying in and raising costs? Well, I'm young and healthy but I still want insurance. Because when I occasionally get a cold, it'd be nice to be able to go to the doctor.

    Having a mandate without a public option is the absolute worst thing that Congress could do. It would bankrupt so many people, because health insurance companies would have no reason to keep prices down, no semblance of competition. Everybody has to have insurance, so they can collectively charge as much as they want. It'd be better to do nothing than to go ahead with this.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  65. Dan

    Wendell Potter is my new hero! I didn't see this until after I read about the Industry Report, but nearly everything I thought after reading about what the Insurance Industry is now saying is echoed by Mr. Potter. The Insurance Industry needs to be reined in and regulated. Prices need to be controlled, and the Public Option is the best way to do that – by forcing the Insurance Industry to become truly competitive. Every objection I've heard from the Industry makes me believe that They don't want to be competitive.

    Bravo, Mr. Potter! You have my respect and admiration for speaking out in this way!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  66. We need good health insurance

    The Health Insurance industry shows a 25 to 30% profit to their shareholders. They care about profit NOT YOUR HEALTH. Of course its all bogus. Some of the C.E.0. s own 5 houses. They can afford to lie, cheat, and rip you off. PLEASE! we need change

    October 13, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  67. NurseGillian

    We "are now knowing that a public option is one of the most important ways to try to keep this industry honest. Without the public option, you know, these companies will continue to have the free reign they’ve had over the last several years, and they will, indeed, raise our prices, our premiums to the point that we can’t afford them and more and more people will be in the ranks of the underinsured."

    Mr. Potter is 100% correct.

    Gillian RN

    October 13, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  68. shepwvu

    Of couse you don't hear from anyone on the "other side" for this interview & John Roberts doesn't challenge Mr. Potter on any of his claims. Of couse this "reform", in whatever form, will cost everyone more in premiums. Only a fool would believe otherwise. How can you give coverage to more without watering it down for everyone or not taxing (fees, whatever you call them it's taxing). Don't give me that savings from fraud crap! When has there not been fraud in any government program & when has it ever been reduced? Never! Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, government contracts, etc, etc, etc. Democrats are just like Republicans when it comes to selectivity for reports.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  69. Lorena Walker

    Fantastic. I am so happy this gentleman came forth with this. It is overtime that this get done. This rich country should be ashamed it has taken so long to give the people a break and let the insurance companies compete with a public option for the millions of us who can not afford health insurance.

    It is shameful, shameful that this is taking so long.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  70. Jim Beard

    Insurance companies a bunch of CROOKS!!??I don't believe it....sorry lying SOBs

    October 13, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  71. Larry S

    Where do you dorks think the cost of the health care is paid??? It is paid by the people that pay premiums . . . and the cost is determined by the coverage provided. Every person poor in health causes the cost to go up for everyone . . . it is just like the goverment . . . they have no money until we the taxpayers give then some money. When insurance limits the coverage, it is a gain to all of thoise that pay the premiums. If you want to make decisons and discuss the health issues, PLEASE have all of the facts and know the basics about insurance. It would be benefical for CNN to take some classes to learn enough to at least ask the important questions . . . or is CNN happy with being told by the ignorant politicans.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  72. Rhonda - Nevada

    That is no surprise this is something that us intelligent Americans have already known. The insurance companies are nothing but a bunch of crooks and have been for many years. I am all for a public option. I would even support a single payer system.

    It would definately be refreshing to be able to go to a doctor or have a test done and not wonder just how much the insurance will not pay, and this is across the borarcon both our previous PPO and HMO plans which we have now lost since my husband has been laid off since 2/09 and my company does not offer medical.

    I am glad that congress has finally heard our cries and is taking on the insurance industry for a chance.

    HOORAY!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  73. R. W Regen

    Very helpful commentary from an insider. Thank you CNN. Please do what you can to give this interview & the ideas behind it as much congressional & public exposure as possible.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  74. Robert

    And now he is a shill for himself, there was nothing in this interview that pointed out any inaccuracies in the PwC report.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  75. Greg

    PricewaterhouseCooper is a joke.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  76. Ricky

    As long as the insurance companies have control over rates they will raise them as high as they want to regardless of the direction reform takes. If they don't get what they want with health care, they will make the policy holders pay the difference. There rates should be reviewed by a commission like the PSC since they affect everyone. Of course then we would have to prohibit PSC members from receiving money and gifts from lobbyist and insurance companies bent on getting what they want. The corruption that affects public policy is staggering. Congressional votes do not reflect the people's wishes anymore. Instead elected officials vote the way their corporate benefactors wish. Just look at the TARP and the bank bailout if you want proof. American taxpayers certainly didn't want it, just Wall Street and the corporate elite (who, by the way, got richer from it).

    October 13, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  77. John

    Finally some truth !!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  78. tom silvestrini

    What private industry in its right mind would encourage government competition in their market? How about government supplied food? Do you think the farmers and distributors of food would be interested in competing with the government? Of course not. More importantly do you think the government supplying food would be more efficient? Of course not! The government is a monopoly that will crush all competition...monopolies always provide high costs and terrible services.
    A public option will kill competition. The public option is nothing more than services subsidized by tax revenue. No private entity can compete with this. The goal of govenment is to expand its influence at the expense of its tax payer to transfer power and wealth to government entities.
    Anyone is a fool to think otherwise. Name one government run service that would be competitive without massive subsidy from tax revenue. There isn't one.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  79. Jason

    PricewaterhouseCoopers was one of the biggest contributors to the Bush administration. They are about as politically independent as Rush Limbaugh.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  80. Joleen

    I think anyone who works in Medical Billing, struggling with insurance companies tactics to get payment for services, will have no trouble believing that the health insurance industry is being disigenuous! People need to know, whithout any doubts, that these companies are not benevolent entities there to help us. These are companies in business to make money, like every business in operation today. How do they make money?...by NOT PAYING CLAIMS!, or delaying claims payment. Wake up people!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  81. Robert

    Having been an industry insider for so long, everyone should be listening to Wendell Potter's information about the insurance companies and what their goals are. He helped shape the plan to accomplish those goals and felt bad enough about what they were doing to get out of the business. When someone like that says that we have to have a public option or the insurance companies will continue to use and abuse the American people, why won't people listen to him? He's not doing this for greed or power, he's doing it because he has a conscience.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  82. John

    It's always about the money for the stockholders, not the American public. The Republicans learned long ago to wave an American flag, some apple pie, and yell "socialism" and everyone will fall in line....hopefully Americans will wake up from the charade....and see who really benefits from all the yelling.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  83. Woof2205

    The executives (all of them) of the insurance companies associated with this false statement about future costs need to be prosecuted under the RICO statute. That ought to finance the new insurance. Their announcement is a perfect demonstration of why we need a public alternative.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  84. ja

    the insurance industry is about greed, simple, look at what happened with Katrina claims

    October 13, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  85. Lyle Schiele

    The misinformation and greed shown by the insurance industry is all the more reason we must have a public option!!!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  86. Joe citizen abroad

    First it's "death panels" (interesting, since insurance companies have behaved like "death panels" by refusing coverage for catastrophic illnesses).

    Now this.

    This is just another clear example of the fox guarding the henhouse. A public option in the bill to keep the insurance industry in check is just a start.

    We need legislation to completely overhaul and regulate the insurance industry. They are out of control and robbing us blind.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  87. Larry S

    The usual problem . . . the guy is missing the facts . . . of course, this is good for the politicans and CNN . . . because both of these groups do not seem to care about the truth and FACTS.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  88. Ron

    Shock! Horror! Imagine, the insurance industry is against insurance reform. What has the world come to that big business does not want to be regulated?!

    The whole problem in this debate (and I think people don't get it), is that healthcare should not be a for-profit enterprise. Sorry, all you big business types, but it is true. The business-ization of health care is what has started the problem and the only way to undo it is to make health care non-profit.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  89. jay m

    My premiums has risen 300% in two years already, and that is without Healthcare Reform.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  90. Ted Jansen

    Please President Obama and members of Congress...please give Americans the opportunity for a public option when it comes to choosing their health insurance. Without that fair level of competition the insurance companies will continue to bilk millions of consumers. For those of you who are against government getting involved please look at Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Imagine where millions of Americans would be without these government sponsored programs.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  91. RobL

    W. Potter leaves the insurance industry in disgrace, they were getting ready to fire him when he quit.

    He has an axe to grind, yet all the major media seek him out as a so-called 'expert'.

    What a white-wash.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  92. Kelly Beduhn

    Thank you Wendell Potter! Of course we can't listen to the insurance companies. They are and always have been looking out for themselves. They have screwed Americans over again & again.
    They are the reason we are in this mess and they are afraid of their bottom line if we find our way out of it. I hope we don't make the mistake (again) of letting insurance companies influence our decisions.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  93. Tom

    Wow, its amazing what CNN will do to support the President's health care agenda. I would like anybody to show me one government program that works?

    October 13, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  94. David

    DEMAND A PUBLIC OPTION NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

    October 13, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  95. Donna Myers

    Of course this is absolutely what the insurance industry has done! An, of course, the the fake report came out the DAY before the vote.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  96. daveL

    I worked for 30 years in the health insurance industry before leaving, and now work on the financial end with doctors. Frankly, I think Mr. Potter has been far more dishonest than insurers. He has an ax to grind. I don't want the same people that run the Post Office and the IRS running my health plan.

    If the whole government collapsed tomorrow, frankly we'd be better off.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  97. Chris

    Well said, Mr. Potter. Well said.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  98. ATL Guy

    If the insurance companies are saying that with millions of new customers and billions in new revenues, they would still have to raise premiums, then we would need to get the public option as a part of health care reform. We can not and should not play into the hands of Big Healthcare.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  99. RN

    Great to hear from another insurance insider to reveal the truth that is ignored by the news media and others. Insurance companies care about profits – not people and we need the government in there to keep them honest.
    Thank you Mr Potter.

    October 13, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  100. Bob in Florida

    I approached my Ins. Co. some time ago, with suggestions on how to do things in the prevention side health care, my business is in that area. It was surprising to me that they had absolutely no interest in that area of health care. It got me thinking, why would that be? I would have thought that lowering the demand for actual health care would be of benefit to the bottom line of the Ins. Co. Apparently, not so! Then I realized that Ins. Cos. bottom line profit increases with rising health care claims. They want the claims to go up because their profit is basically x% of higher claims. The higher the claims, the higher the profit. This got me to thinking that our long term solution has to be, removing profit incentive from health care side and adding profit incentive to the prevention side.

    October 13, 2009 at 10:20 am |
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