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

Wendell Potter , John D. Rockefeller IV
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From 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.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Potter, 20-year public-relations executive for two of the largest for-profit health-insurance companies, presents an exposé of America’s health-care system, which he contends is dominated by corporate greed and human indifference. He ridicules the notion that America’s free-market system can provide actual health care within a for-profit structure. Beginning in 1993, he was a leader in efforts to kill any reform legislation that threatened corporate profits and recounts unscrupulous efforts in 2007 that led him to leave his job. Potter, an investigative reporter before entering PR, explains why it is vital to understand the role of PR and “spin” in our lives, how to recognize it, and what to do about it. Although the author concludes that one day America will have excellent and equitable health care, it will take time and vigilance to force large, powerful corporations to be transparent in their activities. This whistle-blower perspective will heighten discussion and debate on the vital topic of health care in America. --Mary Whaley

Product Details

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating glimpse at the "men" behind the curtain November 19, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Health care continues to limp on in the United States. We are ranked 46th out of all the Top 50 nations for health care in the world. Part of the issue is that health care is run like any other business and yet it isn't truly a business--profiting on someone's else's health or denying coverage for a pre-existing condition (or stating that a technique is experimental when, in fact, it isn't so as to deny coverage and keep the patient alive)is a form of gambling but it gambles with people's lives which makes it Wendell Potter worked for what he would probably characterize as the "enemy" now for over twenty years. As a PR executive he would weave lies into a positive "truth" for the company he worked for (Cigna) making it appear that they were always doing the right thing for their patients. Using statistics to lie is one thing (for example dropping people off the unemployment rolls that are reported to make it appear that the nation is covering when it isn't)but Potter would often twist the truth or help craft messages to appeal to middle America to scare the public from reform in health care.

One day Potter had an awakening and realized what he was doing was wrong leaving the industry that had nurtured him and becoming an advocate for proper health care and a government based system to force corporations to play fair. He just couldn't stomach hiding greed behind the veneer of double speak falling into a rabbit hole with language that only George Orwell would recognize. He chronicles his rise in the industry and his disillusionment and how the media is manipulated, patients, government to make decisions that are profiting major corporations at the cost of our health and lives.
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126 of 140 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Summary of Health Care Insurance Issues November 16, 2010
Wendell Potter was formerly in charge of public relations for Humana and then Cigna. Potter's intent in "Deadly Spin" is to expose the deceptive techniques of public relations in the insurance segment of health care. He does this quite well, and also provides readers with insight into the two events (the large turnout, including many with illusionary health insurance, for a free Pennsylvania dental and medical clinic; the death of a young girl after his employer dithered and delayed approving a necessary transplant) that turned him against continuing to defend the industry he had been part of for some 25 years. Potter begins by introducing readers to a sampling of tested phrases that have served the industry quite well, such as 'socialized medicine,' 'government-run' medicine, and 'government takeover' of medicine. Readers also gain exposure to other P.R. favorites, such as identifying with patriotism and the American way of life, testimonials, name-calling, smearing opponents (eg. Michael Moore and his "Sicko"), identification with plain folks, fake grassroot campaigns, junk science and statistical analyses, and euphemisms. A brief tour of the darker side of health insurance practice likewise is given - rescissions (retroactively canceling policies of those with large medical bills, using whatever pretext possible), and purging less than profitable accounts via large rate increases. Missing, however, is any comment on the fact that if the uninsured paid the same rates as insurance companies, much of the need for health insurance would go away, and a large proportion of medical bankruptcies avoided.

Universal health coverage began under Germany's Otto Von Bismarck in 1883, with Social Security following in 1889.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for every member of Congress December 2, 2010
The title of this book, "Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans" is a bit off-putting. Reading it, I mentally prepared myself for a diatribe written by a disgruntled low-level employee out to get his pound of flesh. We all know that health insurance companies are in the habit of denying coverage and raising premiums, occasionally exorbitantly, but they aren't all that bad, right? Surely not as bad as the Wall Street firms that first took away our retirement savings and then our jobs.

I worked in the financial industry for 25 years. Nothing I saw there was as heinous as what is revealed in this book. Put simply, Wall Street may take away people's money, but health insurance companies take away people's lives.

Author Wendell Potter was an insurance company executive, heading up a PR department. For years, he participated in the shameless pursuit of profits over lives until he finally came face to face with the effects on real people of what he was doing. Visiting a clinic set up on a fair ground offering free health care to those who had no insurance and no means to pay for health care, he saw ordinary hardworking people reduced to being treated in animal stalls.

He has written about his experience in the health insurance industry, as well as his epiphany, in a straightforward manner, making it more powerful than if he had penned an hysterical screed. He takes us, step by step through the changes in the health insurance industry from a privately held companies offering true health insurance to the modern publicly owned companies whose focus is on profits rather than health.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read
More people need to pay attention to Mr. Potter. He is shining lights where few have shone before, and he is trying to warn us about how insurers will screw us whenever they can.
Published 7 days ago by California reader
5.0 out of 5 stars good read, of you are interested in the topic
Interesting information...good read, of you are interested in the topic.
Published 1 month ago by Mark L. Gibson
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read.
Published 2 months ago by Robert Stanek
5.0 out of 5 stars We heard about this book from a segment on THE ...
We heard about this book from a segment on THE DOCTORS tv show and have found it to be very helpful and informative regarding insurance carriers.
Published 3 months ago by Michael Ries
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look into the world of manipulation of public opinion,...
Potter provides an insider's perspective on how health-insurance conglomerates did their level-best to eviscerate or defeat the Affordable Care Act, painting the then-nascent... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Brian R. Warren
5.0 out of 5 stars important book. a must read!
We should all read this book. We see so much spin in the media. We need to recognize it when we see and hear it. Kudos to Wendell Potter for his courage. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Laraine Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Informative Reading
Very informative book. It is a shame that more Americans will either not read this book or dismiss it as inflammatory spin itself. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Musique
5.0 out of 5 stars great
Published 7 months ago by CJ
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read - if you'd like a little insight about the screwing we are...
A must read, if you want to understand a little about how we get screwed in this country
by insurance companies. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Roger
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enlightening report of the insurance industry.
Published 9 months ago by Bob K.
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