Ex-Cigna flack Potter ties insurers to health-reform protests

Health insurers and their high-priced public relations people are working behind the scenes to whip up popular opposition to Obama's health care proposals, renegade ex-Cigna spokesman Wendell Potter said in Washington today, in a press conference hosted by U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Watch on YouTube here.

Potter recounted insurance company efforts from the 1980s through 2007 to quietly finance "duplicitous and well-financed PR campaigns." He said the companies use "shills and front groups to spread lies and disinformation" to "block reform that would benefit people so much." 

"You can rest assured that the industry is up to the same dirty tricks using the same devious PR practices it has used for many years to kill reform this year, or even better to shape it so that it benefits insurance companies and their Wall Street investors far more than average Americans," Potter said.

"Americans need to be alert to how the industry and its allies are working to influence their opinions and lawmakers' votes. I know from years as an industry PR executive how effective insurers have been at using scare tactics to turn public opinion against any reforms that may threaten their profitability."

When protesters organized by conservative, Republican and religious political commentators and groups shout about the "slippery slope to socialism," or "government takeover of the healthcare system," Potter said, "Some insurance flack, like I used to be, wrote that."

Isn't Obama trying to ration health care? "We already have Wall Street rationing of health care. We have insidious rationing of healthcare (by) wealthy investors and hedge fund managers who care much more about profits than your well-being." He urged Americans to "investigate insurance industry practices" instead of blindly defending them.

 Asked about the industry's responsibility for disruptive protests at public "town hall" meetings, Potter said he quit the industry last year, but he recognizes the tactics: "Their playbook is the same." In the past, he added, "the tactics worked."

Read more of Potter's remarks here.