This is Your Brain on Health Insurance

To: TKE Customers (the insured and the uninsured)
From: Kimberly Snow @ TKE

Dear Friends,

Health insurance is complex madness. If you’re lucky enough to have one, your phone book-size policy melts your brain and puts you right to sleep. Chances are that most people on the street, maybe even you, simply pay the medical bills that come, no questions asked, and hope that more don’t arrive. Anything beyond that is impossibly time-consuming and complicated. So we hope and trust that the health insurance industry will take care of us if we get sick, tell us the truth, give us a fair deal for basic health care–i.e., that they will value our lives more than shareholder profits.  We never imagine that they would let us die.

Better re-think things, says author Wendell Potter in his new book, Deadly Spin. The former insurance company insider turned whistleblower reminds us that the health insurance industry operates on a for-profit basis. They will never choose us before they choose the money. In fact, says Potter, the powers that be are always looking for ways either to decrease your coverage or dump you altogether. The former CIGNA executive confirms all sorts of things you may have always suspected but that will nonetheless make your jaw drop. He confirms that our confusion over the hair-raising complications of health insurance is not just a side effect. It’s part of the industry’s plan. It’s difficult to drum up the energy to navigate the ins and outs of health insurance. But it’s too scary not to anymore.

Join us on Friday, January 21 at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium to hear more from Mr. Potter and his crusade against the health insurers’ “deadly spin.”

We talked to him recently about how it feels to switch sides, and what it all means:

How is your life these days? I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I smile more. I have more energy. I feel younger than I felt 20 years ago. I have more friends than I ever imagined I could have. I honestly feel joyous most of the time. I’m very grateful.

What is your state of mind? Peace and gratitude.

Is most of your time spent on the road, making appearances, studying, writing, etc.? Yes, all of that. At least for now. The travel will slow after this month but I will still be making a lot of appearances, studying and doing research, reading and writing. I plan to do a lot more writing than I am able to do during the book tour.

You said recently that “lots” of your old colleagues have been in touch with you, and they tell you that they’re rooting for you.  Are you talking about people who are retired?  Or people who are perhaps currently working where you once did?  Either way, what role is fear playing in all of this, do you think? I have heard from people who have left the insurance industry, voluntarily or involuntarily, but also a few friends who are still working for insurance companies. In fact, I just got a nice note earlier today from a former colleague who still works in the industry today. Many people, however, are fearful of communicating with me. I understand that. They are concerned that they might get caught, and that would not be good for their careers.

On a related note, do you think there’s any chance of helping your former colleagues to see what you see? Absolutely. I know for a fact that that is happening, at least to some extent. And then to act as you have? I’m not expecting that. What I did was very risky and scary. I almost didn’t do it myself because of fear.

You apologized to Michael Moore on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” (MSNBC) for discrediting his movie, SiCKO, and it was pretty astonishing–how calm and civil you both were. Did you have any expectation that Moore would be openly angry with you? I didn’t know what to expect, but I hoped that Michael would see that my apology was sincere. I didn’t expect him to be hostile because I know that he is a decent guy.

How have your conversations been since? We have stayed in touch via email. I hope we get a chance to meet in person (again) before long. He didn’t know me when we first met at the U.S. premier of SiCKO in his hometown in Michigan.

Do you feel as though, in some way, you’re going to spend the rest of your life apologizing? I do expect that I will spend the rest of my life making amends, in some way. I’m fine with that. It’s humbling and the right thing to do.

In general, do you feel more hopeful than frustrated about everything you’re doing? Oh yes. I’m hopeful by nature. I’m an optimist. That doesn’t mean I don’t get discouraged or have cynical moments (I used to cover Congress as a young reporter, so I learned cynicism early), but I do believe we are on the right track to have a better and more equitable health care system. And I think we will eventually restore our democracy. We will take our country back, eventually, from the corporate interests that control our government now.

How has all of this affected your family? They finally know and are proud of what I do every day. I was worried that they would be adversely affected, but that has not happened. We are closer than ever. I’m grateful for that.

The public option didn’t happen. What can we do? Keep working for it. Don’t get discouraged. The current system, even with the reform legislation, is not ultimately sustainable without a public option. It will happen.

Wendell Potter will be appearing at the Salt Lake City Main Library auditorium on Friday, January 21 at 7 p.m.

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One Response to This is Your Brain on Health Insurance

  1. […] auditorium on Friday, Jan. 21. The King’s English Bookshop hosted the event and published this Q&A with him […]

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