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

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

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by Wendell Potter

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That's how Wendell Potter introduced himself to a Senate committee in June 2009. He proceed to explain how insurance companies make promises they have no intention of keeping, how they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and how they make it nearly impossible to understand information that the public needs. Potter quit his high-paid job as head of public… See more details below


That's how Wendell Potter introduced himself to a Senate committee in June 2009. He proceed to explain how insurance companies make promises they have no intention of keeping, how they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and how they make it nearly impossible to understand information that the public needs. Potter quit his high-paid job as head of public relations at a major insurance corporation because he could no longer abide the routine practices of the insurance industry, policies that amounted to a death sentence for thousands of Americans every year.

In Deadly Spin, Potter takes readers behind the scenes of the insurance industry to show how a huge chunk of our absurd healthcare expenditures actually bankrolls a propaganda campaign and lobbying effort focused on protecting one thing: profits. With the unique vantage of both a whistleblower and a high-powered former insider, Potter moves beyond the healthcare crisis to show how public relations works, and how it has come to play a massive, often insidious role in our political process-and our lives.

This important and timely book tells Potter's remarkable personal story, but its larger goal is to explain how people like Potter, before his change of heart, can get the public to think and act in ways that benefit big corporations-and the Wall Street money managers who own them.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
From the Publisher
"The ideal whistleblower...his testimony [is] logical, specific, and convincing." —Time
Mother Jones Emily Loftis
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.
May be the ideal whistleblower.
quoting Potter before Congress in September 2009 President Barack Obama
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.'
Bill Moyers
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.
Howard Dean
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.
Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia
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.
Mike Hoyt
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.
Michael Moore to Wendell Potter on Countdown with Keith Olbermann
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 liedabout things.
The Boston Globe Joshua Kendall
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.
Time Kate Pickert
A gripping indictment.
New York Journal of Books John Presta
DEADLY SPINis 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.
The Bloomington Alternative Linda Greene
The book's as dramatic and suspenseful as a good novel.
Chicago Life Magazine Kari Burns
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.
The health insurance industry's worst nightmare.
The Nation
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
Dr. Pauline Chen
Eloquent . . . 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.
Booklist Mary Whaley
[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. Gary Weiss

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.
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.

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