Nebraska's Democratic United States Senator Ben Nelson is one of the holdouts on national health care reform, after accepting big bucks from the health insurers -- ranking #10 in the Senate for taking health insurance cash. He met his match in the Senate Commerce Committee today when a former CIGNA executive came to Congress with a simple message: "My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years, I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick - all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors."
Potter testified that "I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand--or even to obtain--information we need. As you hold hearings and discuss legislative proposals over the coming weeks, I encourage you to look very closely at the role for-profit insurance companies play in making our health care system both the most expensive and one of the most dysfunctional in the world."
Woof! Wendall Potter may be the secret weapon that wins passage of health care reform in America. Read his full testimony here. The health insurance Potter described today is hardly the one Congress would want to extend to 47 million more Americans. Potter makes as good a case for the need for a public option to the for-profit market and for health insurer accountability as I have heard yet in Congress, just as the president goes on ABC tonight to make his case.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, who chaired today's hearing made an eloquent and passionate plea for change too. He also released a report showing how patients are being screwed by insurance fine print. Reformers are finding their stride. The more the focus on insurers, the stronger this reform horse will run.