Health Insurance Insider to Testify Before Senate

Media Advisory for June 24, 2009:


Contact: Page Metcalf, Center for Media and Democracy

Phone: (608) 260-9713

Email: editor AT

Former Executive Warns Congress: Don't Be Fooled by For-Profit Industry's Misleading Campaign

Washington, DC – Wendell Potter, a former health insurance industry insider, will testify before the full Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday June 24, 2009 at 2:30 p.m. EST, exposing the health insurance industry's resistance to needed health care reform.

Mr. Potter spent more than 20 years as a public relations executive for two large health insurers - Cigna and Humana - but left the industry after witnessing practices he felt harmed American health care consumers.

To him, there was a heart-breaking discrepancy between Americans struggling to find affordable, comprehensive coverage and wealthy insurance executives who based their premium charges – and coverage decisions – on profits rather than people's health care needs. He has decided to come forward in the hopes of stopping the health insurance industry from once again derailing meaningful reform.

He will testify about how big, for-profit insurers have hijacked our health care system and turned it into a giant ATM for Wall Street investors and how the industry is using its massive wealth and influence to determine what is (and is not) included in the legislation currently before Congress.

WHO: Wendell Potter, Former Health Insurance Executive (Cigna and Humana Inc.) and Senior Fellow on Health Care with the Center for Media and Democracy, exposing the industry and telling Congress, "Don't buy the hype."

WHAT: Hearing on "Consumer Choices and Transparency in the Health Insurance Industry,"
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation

WHEN: Wednesday June 24, 2009 Hearing Start Time: 2:30 pm Press Pre-Set Time: 1:45 pm

WHERE: Room 253, Russell Senate Office Building


Thank you for the media advisory above. Here is some additional information: HMO Executive Salaries Reprinted from FAMILIES USA The HMOs complain that any increase in their costs of treating patients will require them to raise premiums, making them too costly, and causing many to go without insurance. Are their budgets really so spare that they couldn't absorb any cost increases without raising premiums? For a start, we might look at the amount of premium dollars removed from patient care by being paid to executives. You decide how much room there is for savings. <p class="MsoNormal"><a href="" title=" "> &nbsp;</a></p>

I think it's important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this conditions has simply caused insurance companies to stop writing these policies. And it does nothing to lower medical and drug costs. It is simply a BAD bill in which those of the medical community were not brought in to testify.

THE LATEST FIGURES: The health insurance companies continue to play a major role in our current healthcare crisis. They make huge profits and their CEOs make millions, while the rest of us are are subject to life-threatening insurance denials. The CEOs continue to make outrageous salaries, money that could provide healthcare for Americans. <B>The Total Package: Health plan CEO compensation for 2008</B> May 14, 2009 Despite the trials and tribulations of the past year, the health insurance executives are still raking in MILLIONS of dollars at the end of the day. This is a look at some of the top total compensation packages from 2008 based on information gathered from the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission. 1. Ron Williams, Aetna - $24.3 million 2. H. Edward Hanway, CIGNA - $12.2 million 3. Angela Braly, WellPoint - $9.8 million 4. Dale Wolf, Coventry Health Care - $9 million 5. Michael Neidorff, Centene - $8.8 million 6. James Carlson, AMERIGROUP - $5.3 million 7. Michael McCallister, Humana - $4.8 million 8. Jay Gellert, Health Net - $4.4 million 9. Richard Barasch, Universal American - $3.5 million 10. Stephen Hemsley, UnitedHealth Group - $3.2 million – adapted from a Special Report by Dan Bowman <a href=" "> </a> Only a single-payer approach to healthcare reform will END THE INHUMANITY OF OUR FAILED HEALTHCARE INSURANCE SYSTEM, WHERE PROFITS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN PATIENTS’ HEALTH, and where people die because of it. We need to get the insurance companies OUT of healthcare. Our fight for equal access to healthcare for all is about democracy, human rights, civil rights, and basic human decency.

Insurance company is running a business, not a welfare department. If you are a share holder, why don't you complain at the share holder meeting. Do you think Government run health care is more efficient? Look at our federal deficits and some States deficits, will those numbers keep you up at night? Or you just want free health care. Insurance company is not the problem, the problem is we lost millions and millions well paying jobs to other nation and imported millions of labors to our country.

we CAN afford affordable health CARE but not unaffordable health INSURANCE if we raise taxes by far less than we are now paying for health INSURANCE...and get better care. they claim the INSURANCE industry is innovative??? in what way, except in ways to deny and delay care...innovation comes from NIC and the CDC and grants FROM THE GOVERNMENT to colleges and universities..those privately run grants are to create demand where NONE exists in the first place. Got ugly toenails? we got the cure, just make sure you get your liver tested every month to ensure it does not decay in the process. No government money was used in finding a cure for ugly toenails!

Why is it that some of my conservative friends are so willing to put their lives, literally, in the hands of private industry? Why don't they get that the goal of a company is to make money, not ensure your well being? Government may not run more efficiently than business, but the reason governments were created was to to protect the citizenry. The government is US and therefore it exists to serve our best interests. Whenever private insurance companies can find loopholes that allow them to save their money by not paying out benefits, they do. It's well documented. Why the h*ll would a shareholder, who invests in a company to MAKE MONEY, complain to an insurance company about its practices if it's making them money? And am I, as a sick person tied into my company's healthcare provider, supposed to rely on shareholders to keep my company honest, for my welfare? Let's just call a spade a spade here: Those who oppose a government alternative to private insurance companies are concerned about one thing only – their financial bottom line. It begins and ends with money for them, period. I'm sick and tired of listening to the defenders of health insurance companies cry, cry cry - first that socialized healthcare can't match the privatized version, but then that the competition would undercut their beloved private institutions. Pick a side fellas- either government-sponsored healthcare sucks, in which case you have no need to fear it, or it works, in which case it would be a threat. You can't have it both ways.

I have spent the last 25 years of my career in the health care industry and believe many that oppose or demonizing the insurance sector are ignorant to some facts, not stupid just misinformed. There is a lot of misinformation out there and lack the knowledge needed to make informed decisions. We hear more politics in the press than solid healthcare delivery insight. Some thoughts - 1. “Capitalism” drives this country’s engine, it is the lifeblood. It is what has made us the greatest country on the planet. If companies like Humana, United Health or CIGNA were ineffective at managing their business they would run it into the ground. These firms work on a thin margins 2-3% and still manage to make a profit. The CEO’s mentioned all should be applauded and deserve the income they earn. 2. “Customer service and guidance” Imagine if there were not a central entity for consumers to call gain guidance, when they need help with claims, or billing, then you will be left with talking to a government employee to solve your issue. Have you ever called your State department, Social security, Medicare? Normally, you get a person that means well, but is not highly qualified and hang up more frustrated. 3. COST - Most of the problems in my opinion are with the AMA, the physician groups, and Pharm and ancillary providers. They want to balance bill you and get more money. We are rated 31 worldwide ranking for delivering health care. Do you think a doctor is going to deliver less quality care because they have to accept a reasonable income? If this were the case, they should change their profession. I have personally encountered many physicians will not accept insurance cards and want only cash, then you file the claim. They do this because they want to balance bill you, something the insurance company protects you against. They want free reign. Many providers run a fair practice, while delivering quality care at a reasonable rate. There is a balance between cost, quality and coverage. 4. Seniors - Healthcare companies that have a Medicare contract with the government are already highly regulated by CMS (Center of Medicare Services). Examples of these are Humana, CIGNA, Blue Cross, etc. Why regulate them more? In essences a quasi-government entity that is being paid or sub-contracted to manage the huge public business – Medicare. 5. Get the employer out of the middle and relive them of the burden. In closing, public health care already exist, it’s Medicaid, Medicare, SHIP, Chips, etc. If we must have more public options, I say let the companies that are good at what they do, like Humana, CIGNA and UNH be the adjudicators, administrators, and marketing of the program. Provide a program that is affordable for those pre-65, maybe based on prior year income and make premiums deductible from taxes. Create a catastrophic plan with rate caps to cover those that want to share in the risk and trade off for low rates. Let the insurance carriers manage this program, this is what they do; this is their business, and good at it. Don’t let the government try and be something they are not. I would rather they focus on Iran, and North Korea, something they are really good at doing. There is a place for a public option, but not run by the government. Steve P. (Tampa, Florida)

I have to comment on what I see as a glaring conflict in this post: "The CEO’s mentioned all should be applauded and deserve the income they earn." "Do you think a doctor is going to deliver less quality care because they have to accept a reasonable income? If this were the case, they should change their profession." There is enough blame in our medical care situation to go around, everyone and I do mean everyone, insurance companies, the AMA, our representatives in government, and the public are going to have to accept change, real change to move forward.

<blockquote>“Capitalism” drives this country’s engine, it is the lifeblood. It is what has made us the greatest country on the planet.</blockquote> Quit draping this current terrible system in the Flag, and stop expecting people to kowtow to "greatness." Ancient Egypt was the greatest in its time, but how livable was it for its ordinary people? <i>March of the Gladiators</i> fits our system of sociopathic medicine better than <i>Battle Hymn of the Republic</i> does. <blockquote>If companies like Humana, United Health or CIGNA were ineffective at managing their business they would run it into the ground.</blocquote> Instead, they've run the American people into the ground. <blockquote>The CEO’s mentioned all should be applauded and deserve the income they earn.</blockquote> They would if they actually delivered affordable and decent health care to the American public. And I mean actual care, not just "coverage." Otherwise, the hell with them. The elephant in your boardroom is still there: whatever their individual problems, every other industrialized democracy in the world does a much better job of delivering decent affordable health care to its citizens than the U.S. does. The for-profit system needs to go.

Why didn't Mr. Potter have a problem with the insurance companies while he was working for them for 20+ years? Why aren't you posting the salaries and profit levels of hospitals, doctors, and pharmacy companies who are also a part of the system? I'm not saying the current health care system doesn't need changing, but insurance companies are not the sole problem. For that matter, the CEO salaries posted aren't different from professional athletes and actors. Why is it okay for them to collect rediculous salaries but not CEOs of corporations?