Wendell Potter on The Ed Show

CMD's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, appeared on the Ed Show (MSNBC) to talk about the "charm offensive" insurance companies have put on by saying that they will allow parents to keep their kids covered up to age 26, while in truth they are declaring war on children in the U.S. A new provision of the health care reform legislation becomes active on September 23 which would make it illegal to drop insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions. In advance of the provision coming into effect, though, insurance companies in at least four states are refusing to write policies on children altogether. Wendell says the insurance industry is "dominated by a cartel of big insurance companies that are more beholden to Wall Street than to the children of the United States." The bottom line, Wendell says, is that we cannot trust these companies. "Do not believe anything they are saying ... We have a very evil system. These companies really cannot do the right thing." Here's the link to the video of Wendell on MSNBC.


As a very recent former health insurance industry insider, I can tell you that what Wendell Potter stated is absolutely true. The company I worked for decided to no longer accept child-only applications effective July 1, 2010. We were advised that this would take place in May 2010. Hence, they found a way to exclude children "legally." Another shady practice that has been put in place since July is for families who have a child with a pre-existing condition. This family's premium will skyrocket and may be completely unaffordable to the family. Please keep in mind that this is for individual health insurance coverage, not for those of us who are fortunate enough to have group insurance benefits through an employer. The individual market is a very, very different world from the group or employer-sponsored insurance that most Americans have. It is truly an evil system and after several years, I could no longer justify working in it.

I'd like to hear a little more on the practical effects of insurance companies not insuring children and raising rates for families of kids with pre-existing conditions. If I had no dependents, I might opt for one of these no-kids companies. But might that mean that the pool of insured people in one of these plans weighs heavier toward upper age groups, and ergo, higher premiums to cover their ever-increasing health care costs? I'd keep shopping. Conversely, those companies that refuse to write kids would be losing a large pool of healthy customers (unless there are more kids falling off bikes, etc, than I'm aware of), and, in the process, their parents (young to middle aged adults, with, presumably the biggest payout going to maternity bills) Can no-kids companies sustain the practice over time? Or is this a short-term ploy to scare health reform supporters? Is this a problem 'the market will solve'? Or will the law itself bring these companies into compliance? (I'm really not sure of the enforcement aspects of the reform law, so will appreciate info from anyone who has facts.) Ultimately, I favored, and still do, universal, single-payer health care that works well for other developed countries. Hopefully, when we've seen a few improvements from this first phase of reform, voters will feel freer to look at how other countries (e.g. Canada) do it, and to listen less to the scare talk that has kept the US's first effort far short of what it could have been.

If Wendell really believes "These companies really cannot do the right thing," why did he support the Obama health care plan, which cements health insurance companies in place as America's "health providers"? Why did he back off his support of national health care? I was so excited about him before, but now he's lost all credibility with me.

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