Insurance Premiums for Focus Groups, and Shills

The Center for Media and Democracy's Wendell Potter took his call for reform to the heart of Big Insurance last night, West Hartford, Connecticut, which is known locally as "insurance City." According to columnist Rick Green of the Hartford Courant, Wendell told the crowd, insurance companies "spend enormous amounts of money in focus groups. They pay a lot of premium dollars to gauge public attitudes. It is a careful study of linguistics and knowing what motivates people and how to reach people on an emotional level."

Wendell told another crowd in Hartford, where he used to live, that Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was a "shill," someone on Capitol Hill "who carries the water for the insurance industry,” according to a story in the New Haven Register. Lieberman, who had been given the Chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee by Senate Democrats despite campaigning for failed presidential candidate John McCain, recently announced he would join a Republican filibuster of any health reform bill that has a public insurance option. When asked why providing Americans with a public option is controversial in some quarters, Wendell said some people vote against their own self-interest and are “susceptible to their opinions being manipulated by special interests, which I have seen and been part of.”

In his Connecticut tour for reform, Wendell participated in a press conference with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, and other local leaders and advocates. That's the state where the legislature passed a state public option plan called "SustiNet," which Republican governor, Jodi Rell, vetoed but then the legislature voted to over-ride the veto. Despite the big insurance company employers in the state, most residents and their representatives plainly favor giving their citizens a public option, a fact one of Connecticut's Senators just as plainly disregards.