Wendell Potter: Insurers Use 'Choice' in Messaging to Protect the Status Quo

Democrats shouldn't fall for an industry talking poiint, says former insurance exec turned critic
Peter Wehrwein

In New York Times op-ed piece yesterday, Wendell Potter said insurers use the word "choice" to protect themselves and fend off health care reform.

"We were told by our opinion research firms and messaging consultants that when we promoted the purported benefits of the status quo that we should talk about the concept of 'choice,' " wrote Potter, a former vice president of corporate communications at Cigna who is now one of the industry's most prominent and strongest critics. 

"It polled well in focus groups of average Americans...As instructed I used the word 'choice' frequently when drafting talking points," Potter continued. 

Wendell Potter

Potter argues in his strongly worded piece that insurers, not Medicare for all, restrict choice with narrow networks of doctors and hospitals and that in the employer-based market,  workers have a limited number of health plans to choose from. 

Without naming names, Potter criticized Democratic presidential candidates like Pete Buttigieg who are pushing for a public option instead of Medicare for all. Buttigieg calls his plan "Medicare for All Who Want It."

"My advice to voters is that if politicians tell you they oppose reforming the health care system because they want to preserve your 'choice' as a consumer, they don't know what they are talking about or they're willfully ignoring the truth," Potter wrote in the Times. "Either way, the insurance industry is delighted."