Sunday, July 12, 2009

Insurance Insider Tells All

Former Insurance Industry Executive Wendell Potter was on Bill Moyers Journal [Friday] night. I cannot recommend this hour enough. Wendell exposes the insurance industry for all its despicable behavior and behind-the-scenes tactics to influence Congress and thwart real reform.
He talks about Cigna's handling of the Nataline Sarkisyan case and the insurance industry's media and political strategies to discredit Michael Moore's Sicko:
BILL MOYERS: And there was a political strategy. "Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats' larger agenda." What does that mean?
WENDELL POTTER: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, "Look, you don't want to believe this movie. You don't want to talk about it. You don't want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you."
WENDELL POTTER: By running ads, commercials in your home district when you're running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.
BILL MOYERS: This is fascinating. You know, "Build awareness among centrist Democratic policy organizations--"
BILL MOYERS: "--including the Democratic Leadership Council."
BILL MOYERS: Then it says, "Message to Democratic insiders. Embracing Moore is one-way ticket back to minority party status."
BILL MOYERS: Now, that's exactly what they did, didn't they? They--
BILL MOYERS: --radicalized Moore, so that his message was discredited because the messenger was seen to be radical.
WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely. In memos that would go back within the industry — he was never, by the way, mentioned by name in any memos, because we didn't want to inadvertently write something that would wind up in his hands. So the memos would usually-- the subject line would be-- the emails would be, "Hollywood." And as we would do the media training, we would always have someone refer to him as Hollywood entertainer or Hollywood moviemaker Michael Moore.
WENDELL POTTER: Well, just to-- Hollywood, I think people think that's entertainment, that's movie-making. That's not real documentary. They don't want you to think that it was a documentary that had some truth. They would want you to see this as just some fantasy that a Hollywood filmmaker had come up with. That's part of the strategy.
BILL MOYERS: So you would actually hear politicians mouth the talking points that had been circulated by the industry to discredit Michael Moore.
I suggest you put aside some time and watch the program. Or read through the transcript. It'll make you mad, but that's a good thing. We need anger. We need action. This is it, folks. Now is the time we push Congress to do something. Right now.

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