Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans

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Overview

Insurance company insider Wendell Potter, a former senior vice president of CIGNA, speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans.

Winner of the 2011 Ridenhour Book Prize

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Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans

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Overview

Insurance company insider Wendell Potter, a former senior vice president of CIGNA, speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans.

Winner of the 2011 Ridenhour Book Prize

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick—all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors." This is how the author of this book introduced himself to a Senate committee and it serves well as an introduction to this book. As a senior vice president of CIGNA, he had access to the inner workings of major insurance companies. His Deadly Spin puts the kabash on the deceptive and stealth public relations of this mega-lucrative industry. Modern day muckraking.

Publishers Weekly
The disinformation campaigns with which health insurance companies hide misdeeds and manipulate public policy are laid bare in this searing j'accuse by one of their own. Potter, a former CIGNA public relations "spin-meister" whose whistle-blowing congressional testimony made a splash, takes us into the war rooms where he and his fellow flacks battled bad publicity--their counterattack against the documentary Sicko included employee training in how to weather a Michael Moore ambush--and fought to stymie health-care legislation. (He helped formulate the rhetoric of socialism and death panels that thundered from Republican podiums.) He exposes the PR pros' propaganda tricks--fake grass-roots organizations, bogus scientific studies--and recounts his shame-faced repentance. But he also trenchantly critiques the failure of America's for-profit health-insurance system: the underhanded methods insurers use to "dump the sick"; the skyrocketing premiums and deductibles that put health care beyond the reach of millions; the obscene salaries executives rake in while denying benefits to patients. These criticisms aren't new, but Potter's street cred and deep knowledge of the industry make his indictment unusually vivid and compelling. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews

A former health-care PR executive blows the whistle on the industry.

Born in rural North Carolina to hardworking parents struggling through lean times, Center for Media and Democracy senior fellow Potter was the first in his family to earn a college degree, after which he became an investigative reporter at a Memphis newspaper. A gig as a political lobbyist led him into the public-relations field, where he accepted a prestigious position at managed-care behemoth Humana. In 1993, he signed on with CIGNA, a highly respected, for-profit health insurer, earning a six-figure salary as a senior PR executive. But as Potter ascended the corporate ranks, disillusionment became commonplace alongside the pressures to increase profitability at any cost while callously disregarding the basic principles of ethics. His conscience buckled. The author recalls working on an aggressive, exorbitant campaign (using health-plan premiums) to discredit filmmaker Michael Moore, whose 2007 documentary Sicko detailed the dire state of American health care. Potter experienced firsthand the destitute situations of those without health care when he visited a "clinic day" on public fairgrounds in Virginia. The author backs up his claims with historical perspectives, industry dissection, consumer profiles and the hard evidence of documented Congressional investigations. He now considers the insurance industry "an evil system built and sustained on greed"—an opinion he maintained after being asked to testify on behalf of an investigation spearheaded by Democratic senator Jay Rockefeller. Potter officially addressed the U.S. Senate on June 24, 2009, exposing the "spin machine" used by companies like CIGNA to confuse unsuspecting consumers. The author concludes optimistically with the passage of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which he considers a positive, proactive leap toward health-care reform.

An illuminating, up-to-the-minute testimonial sure to garner widespread attention and controversy.

From the Publisher
"You're the Daniel Ellsberg of corporate America. I mean, what that man did during Vietnam helped to end that war.... People should read this book. The whole book lays it right out there about how the health insurance companies had bamboozled this country and lied, just outright lied about things."

—Michael Moore to Wendell Potter on Countdown with Keith Olbermann

"To get the country back on track, Potter exhorts consumers to adopt a healthy dose of skepticism toward corporate doublespeak. That’s a sound prescription, one which no American can afford not to have filled."—Joshua Kendall, The Boston Globe

"A gripping indictment."—Kate Pickert, Time

"Potter engagingly weaves together industry secrets with his own moral struggle and transformation into a whistleblower who tried to beat back the spin that nearly killed Obamacare."Emily Loftis, Mother Jones

"Deadly Spin is a must-read for all who want to learn more about what [the health reform law] is and what it is not. It is a handbook for social change."—John Presta, New York Journal of Books

"Potter’s Deadly Spin is an eye-opening account of the backroom antics of industries that do harm. You won’t look at issues the same way after you read this book. If you can understand how "spin" works, you will be able to understand the money and tactics used to distort the truth. And we need to know the power propaganda has on us all."—Kari Burns, Chicago Life Magazine

"What sets this book apart is that it is one of the few volumes that examine ethical shortcomings of American public relations…. this book is more than just one PR man’s tell-all book about the insurance industry. It’s a wake-up call."—Gary Weiss, Portfolio.com

"An illuminating, up-to-the-minute testimonial sure to garner widespread attention and controversy."

Kirkus Reviews

"[Potter] trenchantly critiques the failure of America's for-profit health-insurance system…. [and his] street cred and deep knowledge of the industry make his indictment unusually vivid and compelling."Publishers Weekly

"[Potter] ridicules the notion that America’s free-market system can provide actual health care within a for-profit structure… This whistle-blower perspective will heighten discussion and debate on the vital topic of health care in America."—Mary Whaley, Booklist

"The book’s as dramatic and suspenseful as a good novel."—Linda Greene, The Bloomington Alternative

"May be the ideal whistleblower."Time

"As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what [Potter] called ‘Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.’"—President Barack Obama, quoting Potter before Congress in September 2009

"Wendell Potter is a straight shooter—and he hits the bulls-eye here with an expose of corporate power that reveals why real health care reform didn’t happen, can’t happen, and won’t happen until that power is contained."—Bill Moyers

"The recently passed health care bill did many good things, including make health insurance available to more Americans and restrain some of the most egregious practices of the health insurance industry. It also forced more people to become customers of that industry. What the bill did not do is reform the health care system. Wendell Potter explains why not, and what went wrong."—Howard Dean

"Wendell Potter transformed the national debate over health care when he stood up and told the truth about the health insurance industry. By breaking the insurance industry’s code of silence and explaining to his fellow Americans how health insurance companies put profits ahead of patient care, Wendell showed extraordinary courage. The compelling story of Wendell’s conversion from a health care executive to an outspoken reform advocate is essential reading for anyone trying to understand the American health care system."—Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia

"Deadly Spin makes clear what reporters were—and are—up against as they try, and often fail, to make the complex pros and cons of health care reform clear to citizens, as big-money players misdirect and obfuscate. More important, it illuminates what citizens are upagainst as they try to figure it out."—Mike Hoyt, Executive Editor, Columbia Journalism Review

"The book’s as dramatic and suspenseful as a good novel."—Linda Greene, The Bloomington Alternative

"Potter’s Deadly Spin is an eye-opening account of the backroom antics of industries that do harm. You won’t look at issues the same way after you read this book. If you can understand how ‘spin’ works, you will be able to understand the money and tactics used to distort the truth. And we need to know the power propaganda has on us all."—Kari Burns, Chicago Life Magazine

"The health insurance industry’s worst nightmare."—Portfolio.com

"Wendell Potter, former vice president of corporate communications with insurance giant CIGNA, now a fellow with the spin-busting Center for Media and Democracy, used media appearances and testimony before Congressional committees to expose the dark manipulations of fact that insurance firms use to preserve for-profit healthcare. Then he put it all on paper with a terrific book"—The Nation  

"Eloquent... a tour de force.... Despite the damning revelations throughout his book, Mr. Potter’s indictments of the industry he once served are far from heavy-handed; instead, they are suffused with the kind of transcendent empathy one finds in those who have undergone profound personal transformations."—Dr. Pauline Chen, Well Blog, New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608192816
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 11/9/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.58 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendell Potter is a Senior Fellow on Health Care for the Center for Media and Democracy. In 2009, he retired after a twenty-year career as a PR executive for health insurers to speak out on both the need for health care reform and the increasingly unchecked influence of corporate PR. He is a native of Tennessee.

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the Paperback Edition ix

Foreword xiii

Introduction 1

Chapter I The Beginning 11

Chapter II The Campaign Against Sicko 29

Chapter III Perception Is Reality 45

Chapter IV Remote Area Medical in Wise County, Virginia 63

Chapter V Health Care History, Reform, and Failure 79

Chapter VI Consumer-Driven Care 101

Chapter VII It's All About the Money 125

Chapter VIII An End Too Soon 147

Chapter IX ERISA Stymies the Sarkisyans, and Us 175

Chapter X A Victory, of Sorts 187

Chapter XI The Playbook 211

Chapter XII Spinning Out of Control 235

Acknowledgments 249

Resource Guide 252

Notes 266

Index 275

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2011

    A very important book for anyone who needs insurance...and who doesn't?

    This is a book of warning about a perfect storm. The United States can't sustain millions of bankruptcies. People who aren't covered adequately with health insurance or not at all will inevitable fall into that category. More and more people are going without insurance or have insurance that doesn't cover them, period. Every time a bankruptcy occurs with regard to medical it hurts the clinics and hospitals. It hurts the economy. Who can afford insurance and a new car or furnace or trip? You think the housing bubble was bad? What this book does is explain very very clearly what the insurance industry is doing to not just sustain itself but gorge itself with wealth. It's criminal. Read this and then write your congress person. A very important book. READ IT.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2010

    Well written, timely...and a warning to every American.

    As the right wing prepare their tactics to try and dismantle the Health Care reform passed this year, Wendell Potter's book provides insight into the misinformation and fear-mongering perpetrated on the American public by the for-profit Health Insurance industry. The book gives the reader a behind the scenes look into the public relations (PR) machines that generates the messages that are put before the public as fact when, in reality the messages are, at best distortions of the truth and, at worst, blatant lies.

    Potter helps us understand how we are manipulated with planted "news" stories, purchased "scientific" studies and fake "grassroots" orinaizations funded by the companies with the most to gain financially from keeping the status quo in health care, energy and other industries that touch every one of us.

    A former PR executive in the Health Insurance industry, Potter was one of "them" for over 20 years. Now he has joined "us" - the American citizens who derserve the truth so that we can make our own decisions.

    So, read the book for the history, the footnotes and the inside look on who is manipulating the politicians and public opinion. Get the facts for a change. Or, if the facts don't interest you, continue watching Fox News and buying the Deadly Spin that they provide.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Recommended - a nice, measured look at PR and Health Care

    _Deadly Spin_ read more like a memoir for the first half, as Potter explains how he got from CIGNA PR executive to media watchdog, and more like an engrossing lecture on PR Campaign Behavior, Goals, and Remedies for the second half. Potter presents a nice composition of education in PR, personal history, and message (because he does have one) to bring the reader up to speed and get to his point. This is an informed observation of PR behavior not only in the Health Insurance industry, but in many large for-profit industries, and a nice dissection of the methods and means behind the PR pushes and the industries' goals. I found myself pleasantly educated and full of righteous fury while reading it. I find myself hoping that that fury doesn't dissipate under the fruits of the author's former profession. Full disclosure - this review is based on an ARC provided through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and is cross-posted in multiple locations on the internet. I only cross-post like this when I do recommend that folks read the work.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2012

    Highly recommended book.

    I had heard about this book and had seen Mr. Potter on various news shows and finally bought the book. It was interesting (history of health care), illuminating (recent history of attempts to improve health care) and ultimately depressing (all of the money being thrown against any attempts to reform the current system). Mr. Potter doesn't pretend to be a saint -- he talks about his job for the insurance industry and how very successful he was at it. His epiphany that led to his current situation is instructive for all of us. Worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2011

    Confirms suspicions & opens eyes

    Potter's book provides new insights into the health insurance industry and confirms things I have often suspected, demonstrating clearly that it is actually worse than I have thought. I considered myself jaded, but still did not suspect people at the top of their industry would go so far afield ethically in the name of profit. This book is loaded with facts and experiences that present a stunning picture of what greed can do.
    We American's are fond of criticizing our government, something corporate America spends plenty of money encouraging us to do so these same corporations can do away with any oversight or regulation that would interfere with their ability to line their pockets with excessive profits at the expense of the American people. Here is an industry spending billions on advertising, promotion and lobbying, which truly deserves our criticism.
    It makes me ill to realize how many thousands of people suffer and die while disingenuous hypocrites grow increasingly rich and congratulate each other on what a good job they are doing. They collect premiums; deny and delay claims; and spend huge sums on lobbying and promotion to dupe us into believing that a government takeover of the health care industry would somehow be worse that what their industry has been doing to their fellow Americans for decades. This book shows what a laughable idea it is that we need to be protected from our government taking over health care from the insurance industry. The parasites within this industry are what we need protection from!
    My thanks to Wendell Potter for coming clean and telling it like it is. Will enough people listen to what he has to say to make a difference?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    A must read for anyone concerned about the current health care debates or anyone having any difficulty with their current medical insurance. Eye opening. Thanks to Wendell Potter for his courage in writing this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 3, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    Get it. Read it. Then understand the depth of greed that drives America's healthcare system.

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