This is a transcript of an interview with Wendell Potter, a former Health Insurance Exec who has turned whistleblower. The week before this interview, he testified before congress. This interview was for the Rob Kall Bottom-Up Radio show, broadcast Wednesday, July 1, 2009, on WNJC 1360 AM, broadcast to the Philly Metro area and South NJ.Thanks to my transcription team, Paula Sayles, Janet Loughrey, Janet Mills andLori Stefano
Rob Kall: This is Rob Kall, Bottom-Up Radio Show. I'm interviewing Wendell Potter, who last week testified before Congress about a duplicitous health insurance industry, who tells us shouldn't be trusted. Wendell, again, could you give us the name of the organization you're now with?
Wendell Potter: Yes, thank you. It's the Center for Media and Democracy, and I'm the senior fellow in health care at the Center for Media and Democracy.
Rob Kall: And is there a website for that?
Wendell Potter: There is, and I'm blogging there, so if you'd like to see and keep up with what I'm writing, go to prwatch.org. It's a great organization, and I'm certainly not the only one there by any means, of course, as you'll see. They do great work. One of their missions is to try to make sure people are aware...people like I used to be, how public relations professionals and firms manipulate public opinion.
Rob Kall: Ok, so that's Wendell Potter at the Center for Media and Democracy, prwatch.org, and you're listening to Rob Kall Bottom-Up Radio Show WNJC 1360. Welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show.
Wendell Potter: Thank you very much for inviting me.
Rob Kall: Oh, it's a pleasure. I just finished reading your testimony that you gave in Congress on the twenty-fourth. Did they transcribe it or did you supply a statement that they published, or both?
Wendell Potter: It was both. I provided a written statement and I gave an oral version of that which was abbreviated. So I think that what you have seen may be one or both. It could be the longer version or the abbreviated oral version that I gave.
Rob Kall: Okay. Well, let's get started on this conversation. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?
Wendell Potter: I'll be glad to. I am a former journalist; that was my first career. I was a newspaper reporter in Tennessee and then in Washington for a few years and I covered Congress and the White House. But my longer career was in public relations and my most recent job was Head of Corporate Communications at Cigna, which is the large insurance company. I have been there for fifteen years and I was at another insurer, Humana, for four years before that. So, I've spent almost two decades in the health insurance industry.
Rob Kall: In the belly of the beast.
Wendell Potter: In the belly of the beast. And I left last year after deciding I just didn't want to do that anymore and I couldn't live with myself to continue doing that kind of work. Now I am a Senior Fellow on Healthcare for the Center for Media and Democracy.
Rob Kall: You had a message to give to Congress. What was the overall message that you wanted to leave them with?
Wendell Potter: As they are looking at and writing legislation to reform the healthcare system and determine the appropriate role for private insurers, I think it's very important to understand how the private insurance industry has behaved over the last several years and to know that they are not trustworthy partners for individuals, for businesses or for the government. They've got a long track record to show that they're untrustworthy.
Rob Kall: So, are you suggesting that when they say that they're going to try to change their ways as part of Obama's plan to fix the healthcare system, we shouldn't expect a good faith effort from them?
Wendell Potter: No. No, you should not expect that. And if you look at what they were saying and doing in 1993 and 1994, the last time we had a big debate on healthcare reform, they were saying absolutely, almost verbatim the same things that they're saying right now. So, while their trying to make us believe that they've changed and that they're saying some new things now, you can't believe that. You can look, in fact, at Congressional testimony from 1993 and 1994 and see that what I am saying is true. They will tell you what they think you want to hear and make promises they have no intention of keeping.
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