by nyceve

(Posted at the Daily Kos, Nov. 19, 2010. Re-posted with permission)

The other day I mentioned in a comment, that my dear friend Wendell Potter had registered to write posts on Daily Kos.

When I say Wendell is a friend, I mean it in every sense of what a friend is all about. He is just about the most self effacing, genuine and honorable human being I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

He and I first met during the Nataline Sarkisyan tragedy, when he was a very senior executive with CIGNA, and on the receiving end of a torrent of calls and terrible publicity. Wendell says, that particular day, which many of you participated in, helped start his journey to redemption and turned him into the activist he is today.

I’m hoping Wendell will start posting here before too long, but right now his travel schedule is wicked, as he is traveling to 25 cities to discuss his new book Deadly Spin.

I assure you, once he gets started, there will be no stopping this gentle truth teller. He has a lot to say about the for profit insurance corporations which will make you very, very angry.

In the meantime, Wendell has asked me to clarify a comment he made the other night on Countdown. But this is also a very important teachable moment about what we will be facing from industry front groups as we begin the long slog of trying to improve and strengthen the PPACA.

A word about industry front groups.

Going forward, as the for profit insurance industry attempts to retain the individual mandate— boy do they want the 30 million new mandated victims customers, you will see new industry front groups spring up.  Their sole mission will be to extract and fully neuter any meaningful regulation from PPACA.  I’m certain Wendell will have plenty to say about this in the months ahead.

My prediction is that this next generation of front groups will target things like the tiny patient protections, the Medical Loss Ratio requirements, in the ACA as the reason for skyrocketing premiums. The insurance corporations want us all to buy high deductible, junk insurance which guarantees them huge revenue, and a customer base of people essentially unable to access even basic healthcare.

In fact the primary reason for health insurance becoming more unaffordable with every passing year, is because we have a parasitic middleman extracting 30 cents of every health care dollar for profit, administrative waste, and to market their junk insurance–which in 2014, millions be forced to buy–though we will still by no means have universal coverage.

Returning to Wendell Potter.

This is from an email I received from Wendell earlier this morning.

On Countdown Wednesday night, I inadvertently called AHIP’s front group Health Care for America Now. The front group had a similar name: Health Care America, which I wrote about in my book in the chapter entitled “The Campaign Against Sicko.” As you’ll see, some folks on the Daily Kos who are not fans of HCAN have picked this up, believing that I did indeed mean HCAN. Can you help me fix this or advise me on how to go about it without making it worse?

Many thanks for your suggestions.

Wendell stated on Countdown that an organization, (now defunct, of course), which he called, Health Care for America received industry money in an attempt to discredit Michael Moore and his brilliant movie Sicko. In fact Wendell misspoke, he was referring to a similarly named organization called Health Care America. Wendell was not talking about HCAN.

This is everything you need to know about the smarmy industry front group, Health Care America from Sourcewatch.

Take a look at the leadership of Health Care America. A woman named Sarah Berk, a former staffer for Rick Santorum and “grassroots lobbyist” for the American Hospital Association, ran the operation. You can see here who Sarah supported in the 2008 election cycle.

As Wendell stated, these front groups feed information to the traditonal media, who dutifully and unquestioningly report manufactured garbage as fact.

There is current a diary on the recent diary list which mistakes Health Care America (the industry front group), for Healthcare for America Now (the good folks).  Do not blame the diarist ludlow, Wendell misspoke.

Here is the most important part of Wendell’s interview with Amy Goodman about Health Care America and industry front groups which happened a day before the Keith Olbermann Countdown appearance.

WENDELL POTTER: There were just a couple of people. There was a woman. I think her name was—I can’t remember her name. Sarah Berk, I think, was her name. But the media contact for it was a guy named Bill Pierce, who I had known and worked with in the past. He used to be a PR guy for Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association. At that time, he was in the public relations firm APCO Worldwide. He was listed as a media contact, and if you called his number, you would have reached him at his desk at APCO Worldwide. It didn’t have any substance. It was just a—

AMY GOODMAN: What is APCO Worldwide?

WENDELL POTTER: It is a very, very big PR firm that was started several years ago by a big Washington law firm, Arnold & Porter. The A and P is Arnold & Porter, and they were defending—


WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, and they were defending tobacco companies. So they felt that they needed to have help in the court of public opinion, as well as in the courtroom.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did Health Care America—who did they say they were?

WENDELL POTTER: They said they were representing consumers. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Did anyone expose this at the time?

WENDELL POTTER: No. No one did.

AMY GOODMAN: Did anyone have them on to counter what Michael Moore had to say on television, radio or quote them in the newspaper?

WENDELL POTTER: No. In fact—and I’ve done a search recently just to find out how they were covered, and they were never exposed.

AMY GOODMAN: But were they quoted?

WENDELL POTTER: Oh, absolutely. They were quoted extensively. They sent out press releases. And they were given status as a legitimate organization, even by the New York Times.

AMY GOODMAN: In what article?

WENDELL POTTER: There was an article that the New York Times wrote as a kind of a review of Sicko, not really a review but just a story about the movie actually premiering in the U.S. in June of 2007. And the New York Times story quoted the Health Care America spokesman as saying that this represented a move toward socialism. And there was not an—apparently not an attempt on the part of the reporter, or any reporter that I saw, to disclose the fact that this was funded largely by the insurance industry.

So where does this leave you and me?

Well in the reddest of red states, South Carolina, the South Carolina Medical Society has had enough with the insurance corporations.

It seems self-evident that real reform will move to the states. The Democrats had their chance and blew it.

Keep your eye on the great heroes at California OneCare, and what happens in Vermont. Read this terrific interview with Bernie Sanders. These two states seem poised to be the first to enact single payer.

Editor’s Note: Read Wendell Potter’s article in today’s Center for Media and Democracy blog further detailing Health Care America’s role as a front group for the insurance industry.