Potter to Press: Do Your Job!

Levana’s got a fabulous post up on the HCAN blog right now about Wendell Potter – the former insurance industry executive who’s been speaking out. He did a press conference on Capitol Hill today and let the press have it:

Former Insurance Executive Wendell Potter Challenges Media – Do some investigative reporting!

Here’s a snippet:

Potter describes in detail the campaigns that he personally witnessed from the 1993-94 debates until he left the industry. A clear pattern emerged. Here he describes a specific PR firm, APCO and their involvement in the health care debate:

The insurance industry has funded several other front groups since [1993] whenever the industry was under attack. It formed the Coalition for Affordable Quality Healthcare to try to improve the image of managed care in response to a constant stream of negative stories that appeared in the media in the late ‘90s and the first years of this decade.

It funded another group with a different name about the same time when lawyers began filing class action lawsuits on behalf of doctors and patients. Like the Health Benefits Coalition, this one, called America’s Health Insurers, was created by and run out of a powerful Washington-based PR firm, APCO Worldwide.

APCO is perhaps best known for setting up a front group for the tobacco industry in the early ‘90s. Philip Morris reportedly hired APCO to organize a front group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition in 1993 to help fight public health efforts following the ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency that secondhand tobacco smoke was a carcinogen.

. . .

APCO . . . also activated conservative allies and enlisted the support of conservative talk show hosts, writers and editorial page editors to warn against a “government-takeover” of the U.S. care system. That is a term the industry uses often to scare people away from any additional involvement of the government in health care.

Health Care America also placed ads in newspapers. One such ad, which appeared in Capitol Hill newspapers, carried this message, “In America, you wait in line to see a movie. In government-run health care systems, you wait to see a doctor.”

APCO’s work on behalf of the industry included feeding talking points to conservatives in the media and in Congress and to place columns and op-eds written for the industry’s friends in conservative and free-market think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage, CATO, the Manhattan Institute and the Galen Institute.

By the way, you will not find America’s Health Insurers among the clients APCO lists on its web site. That’s because the work it does for AHIP is largely covert.

After Potter carefully described this pattern in detail, several reporters asked him to give specific examples of how that is happening now in the current debate. Since he has been out of the industry for a year now, of course, he cannot say—but he had a good idea for the reporters in the room. Potter, who worked as a journalist early in his career suggested, “Why don’t you do some investigative reporting?”
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Read the whole post here.

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