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Health insurers spread lies to promote shareholder value

Written by Diane Archer

In a Washington Post op-ed, Wendell Potter, president of the Center for Health and Democracy and a former Cigna executive, explains that his job at Cigna was to spread lies to Americans about health care in order to promote value for Cigna’s shareholders. As a result, millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured today. And, thousands of Americans have died preventable deaths from lack of care during this pandemic.

In response to Michael Moore’s film, Sicko, in 2007, Potter worked in collaboration with executives at other health insurers to keep Americans from advocating against our for-profit health care system. Sicko claimed that the US corporate health care system was a failure, and Canada’s public health care system worked quite well. They hired a PR firm to develop talking points about the problems with Canada’s health care system. They pulled quotes from unreliable sources and spread falsehoods, misleading Americans to believe that the US health care system was best in class and other public health car systems were seriously flawed.

As Potter explains, the US’ inability to contain the novel coronavirus and Canada’s relative success demonstrates the superiority of Canada’s system. The US is seeing three times more coronavirus infections per capita and has twice the mortality rate of Canada. The health insurers’ trade association, AHIP, continues to spread nonsense about wait times to get care in Canada when Canadians have far more doctors and better access to medical care than Americans.

People in Canada have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment without having to worry about the cost. They have no out-of-pocket cost–no deductibles, no coinsurance, no copays. And, when they lose their jobs, they still have health insurance. This helps explain why so many fewer Canadians are dying than Americans.

If you look at a variety of metrics, people get better health care in Canada. People in Canada are hospitalized less frequently as a result of a chronic condition. They have longer life expectancies, 82 v. 78.6. And, they spend half the amount we do per person on health care. Moreover, their hospitals rely on a global budget and are protected financially when fewer people seek treatment.

We need a public health insurance system in the US if we care about ensuring Americans receive the care they need. Our private health insurance system is designed not to pay for care, to profit from imposing financial and administrative barriers to care.

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