Letter from Wendell Potter, a former head of corporate communications for CIGNA -- one of California's largest health insurance companies.
For 20 years, I defended what some might call "death panels," operated by the health insurance industry, which denied health care coverage to people who needed it.
As head of corporate communications for one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, I had to find new and creative ways to defend an industry with a profit incentive to deny, drop or delay health care coverage. I was very good at creating language -- what my friends at the Courage Campaign call "insurance jive" -- that justified the harm we were causing to families across the nation.
I spoke "insurance jive" as well as I could. Then, one day in 2007, I saw hundreds of Americans waiting in the rain for hours in Virginia to get free medical care they otherwise could not afford. My conscience told me I had to stop. So I quit my job and began to speak out for real health care reform.
My experience in the insurance industry taught me that the only way we will stop the insurance companies from denying coverage to sick and dying Americans is to keep them honest with a strong public health insurance option. If more Americans have the option to receive health insurance from the government -- like Medicare -- competitive pressure on the private insurers will force them to clean up their act. ...
The health insurance industry is spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to kill the public option. They know that a strong public option will force insurers to cut costs and ensure that patients get the health care they need. Only competition from public insurance can keep the private insurers honest.
The Obama Administration has been sending mixed signals on the public option in recent days. But progressive organizations and blogs including ProgressiveCongress.org, Democracy for America, CREDO Mobile, MoveOn.org and Firedoglake -- and netroots activists including Californians David and Dante Atkins and Howie Klein -- are leading the fight to save the public option.
This growing movement is keeping the public option alive. By making sure our representatives oppose any bill without a strong public option, we can increase pressure on the White House to continue to fight for the public option as well.