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How Corporate PR Works to Kill Health Care Reform (Wendell Potter, formerly of Cigna)

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debbierlus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 11:30 PM
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How Corporate PR Works to Kill Health Care Reform (Wendell Potter, formerly of Cigna)


Sept. 15, 2009 | It is easy to think of efforts to influence lawmakers as the exclusive domain of K Street lobbyists. Much has been said and written about the millions of dollars the special interests are spending on lobbying activities and the hundreds of lobbyists who are at work as we speak trying to shape healthcare reform legislation. Very little by comparison has been written about the millions of dollars that special interests are spending on P.R. activities to accomplish the same goal and that are vital to successful lobbying efforts.

One of the reasons I left my job at CIGNA, where I headed corporate communications and was part of the Legal & Public Affairs division, was because I did not want to be involved in yet another P.R. and lobbying campaign to kill or gut reform. I finally came to question the ethics of what I had done and been a part of for nearly two decades to influence decision making and bill writing on Capitol Hill.

When I testified before the Senate Commerce Committee in late June, I told the senators how the industry has conducted duplicitous and well-financed P.R. and lobbying campaigns every time Congress has tried to reform our healthcare system, and how its current behind-the-scenes efforts may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street far more than average Americans. I noted that, just as they did 15 years ago when the insurance industry led the effort to kill the Clinton reform plan, it is using shills and front groups to spread lies and disinformation to scare Americans away from the very reform that would benefit them most. The industry, despite its public assurances to be good-faith partners with the president and Congress, has been at work for years laying the groundwork for devious and often sinister campaigns to manipulate public opinion.

The industry goes to great lengths to keep its involvement in these campaigns hidden from public view. I know from having served on numerous trade group committees and industry-funded front groups, however, that industry leaders are always full partners in developing strategies to derail any reform that might interfere with insurers' ability to increase profits. My involvement in these groups goes back to the early '90s when insurers joined with other special interests to finance the activities of the Healthcare Leadership Council, which led a coordinated effort to scare Americans and members of Congress away from the Clinton plan.

A few years after that victory, the insurers formed a front group called the Health Benefits Coalition to kill efforts to pass a Patients Bill of Rights. While it was billed as a broad-based business coalition that was led by the National Federation of Independent Business and included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Health Benefits Coalition in reality got the lions share of its funding and guidance from the big insurance companies and their trade associations.

MUCH MORE AT http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/09/15/potter_...
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debbierlus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-18-09 11:23 AM
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1. A self kick to get this going - great article.
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