Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Crippled Healthcare System

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 PR people like Wendall Potter would often twist the truth or help craft messages to appeal to middle America to scare the public from reform in health care.

Wendall Potter's book DEADLY SPIN takes us behind the curtain to reveal that our make shift healthcare system continues continues to fall apart because the magical Wizard of Oz continues to con us into believing their illusions: the illusion that we have great healthcare; the illusion that reform is bad; the illusion that universal healthcare that the nations ranked 1 through 10 on the list of exceptional care are somehow substandard; the illusion that tying organizations that provide healthcare to profits and that profitability of a healthcare company will give us the quality that we need to survive in the 21st century. The CEO magpies of Aetna, Cigna and other health insurance giants continue to profit from illness, death and disease making them nothing more than one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Hooper came to his senses and realized he worked for unethical charlatans who were descendants of the rainmakers that populated the dust bowl during the Great Depression.

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. This is as much the story of his awakening as it is about the PR manipulation of the public around health care issues.

Potter's exceptional book "Deadly Spin" takes us behind-the-scenes into the wheeling and dealing that goes on with multiple PR flacks that try and spin doctor any change that threatens their profit as bad for the average consumer. Potter gives us a history of the PR game to help us understand WHY and HOW this delibunethical.

The health care industry from health plans to pharmaceuticals have for too long had access to lawmakers (using the money that we pay them) to push forward their own agenda and "buy" politicians in Washington; that's nothing new it just just become more blatant than before. Using misinformation, front groups to suggest that any sort of reform is bad, these organizations have been directing America down a path with overgrown foilage and rough terrain where the patient must always suffer. Potter's book takes the curtain that these companies hide behind and let's us see the thought process, innner workings and how misinformation manipulates the public to make the wrong choices while allowing politicians to make those choices knowing they are wrong without ramifications.

Is "Universal Healthcare" the way to go? I don't know but I do know that the insurance industry is scared of it. Perhaps the enemy of our enemy could be our friend and perhaps that friend SHOULD scare the healthcare industry. Maybe they'll shape up and move in an ethical direction where Orwellian doublespeak doesn't dominate their time and caring for humanity will. It's a nice dream. The dream can only come true though if made practical and removing profit as an incentive. Potter points out how people like him would manipulate the media and politicians to paint Universal Healthcare as "communist" or "socialist" in nature to taint any and all intelligent discussion about the positives and negatives scaring people away before dialog had even begun. Is it communism or socialism to want to live long, healthy lives? I would state that this is an essential element of a caring democratic society.

Potter suggests that having some sort of system like this in place would be helpful in redefining the way we take care of our health. The recent changes with Obama Care he points out aren't perfect but is a step in the right direction (--his complaint was that corporate America shaped it (this is Potter's opinion mind you I don't know that I agree with him on this point but it is food for thought).

I don't know that I agree with all of Potter's suggestions (for example I think that given our economy Obama Care should have been a lower priority--right in the middle of the worst economic downturn in ages-- and when it did become a priority it was so badly compromised that the changes--small as they were and some positive--are meaningless in the over all big picture)but I have to admire him for waking up from the money inspired opiate-like dream that has entranced everyone else in his former industry. I also feel that Potter would have done better to give us more indepth examples of why the system breaks down consistently but what we do get makes me embarrassed to be an American because of the self centered greed of those in charge.

Regardless of where you stand on healthcare-- if you believe or don't believe in universal healthcare--Potter's book is essential reading for understanding the flaws in our system and how corporate greed and profit continues to manipulate who gets coverage, who doesn't and why we are ranked so poorly compared to other nations when it comes to health care.


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