Wendell Potter: Health Insurance Companies Are Killing Themselves

Wendell Potter, former insurance company executive turned anti-industry activist, says that today’s health insurers, far more than even in the recent past, are driving away their customer base by cherry-picking healthy people as customers, raising premiums to absurd heights, and raising deductibles so that insurance covers less and less of a customer’s actual medical expenses.

Potter should know, from his days with Cigna and Humana. It is regrettable that more insurance executives don’t have similar crises of conscience leading them not merely to abandon an industry riddled with dishonest practices but actually to fight it.

Something like 50 million Americans have no health insurance. I was in that position for over two years; it’s scary as hell. (I am one of those who got to a point that they could not afford the absurd premiums… over $2,000/mo. in my case.) I am insured right now only because Stella changed jobs, and the new employer, unlike the old, is reasonable about insuring domestic partners.

With luck, this will get me through to Medicare age, I’ll survive to Medicare age, and Medicare will still be there. With no luck (or maybe that’s luck), I’ll die before I get to Medicare age. With no luck, for some unforeseen reason I’ll rejoin the 50 million.

But my real opportunity for luck is already past: with luck, I’d have been born to sufficient wealth that insurance coverage would be a negligible expense. That was the first of the late lamented Dean Reuel Stallones’s rules for leading a long and healthy life: “choose your parents well.” But I doubt Dean Stallones could ever have conceived of an America with 50 million citizens denied access to health care coverage by being priced out of the market.

Private insurance companies are dying? Good. Good riddance. Almost nothing else could be as bad in their place.

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