Twenty year health industry veteran Wendall Potter explains how health insurance companies define the terms of debate over health care and how dissident voices are dealt with:
BILL MOYERS: So what did you think when you saw that film?
WENDELL POTTER: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.
BILL MOYERS: What were they afraid of?
WENDELL POTTER: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.
BILL MOYERS: We obtained a copy of the game plan that was adopted by the industry’s trade association, AHIP. And it spells out the industry strategies in gold letters. It says, “Highlight horror stories of government-run systems.” What was that about?
WENDELL POTTER: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you’re heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.
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.”
BILL MOYERS: How?
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–”
WENDELL POTTER: Right.
BILL MOYERS: “–including the Democratic Leadership Council.”
WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely.
BILL MOYERS: Then it says, “Message to Democratic insiders. Embracing Moore is one-way ticket back to minority party status.” …
BILL MOYERS: So your plan worked.
WENDELL POTTER: It worked beautifully.
BILL MOYERS: The film was blunted, right?
WENDELL POTTER: The film was blunted. It–
BILL MOYERS: Was it true? Did you think it contained a great truth?
WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely did.
BILL MOYERS: What was it?
WENDELL POTTER: That we shouldn’t fear government involvement in our health care system. That there is an appropriate role for government, and it’s been proven in the countries that were in that movie.
You know, we have more people who are uninsured in this country than the entire population of Canada. And that if you include the people who are underinsured, more people than in the United Kingdom. We have huge numbers of people who are also just a lay-off away from joining the ranks of the uninsured, or being purged by their insurance company, and winding up there.
And another thing is that the advocates of reform or the opponents of reform are those who are saying that we need to be careful about what we do here, because we don’t want the government to take away your choice of a health plan. It’s more likely that your employer and your insurer is going to switch you from a plan that you’re in now to one that you don’t want. You might be in the plan you like now.
But chances are, pretty soon, you’re going to be enrolled in one of these high deductible plans in which you’re going to find that much more of the cost is being shifted to you than you ever imagined.