News Briefs: Whistleblower at Cigna

Published August 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 7

After a year of hanging in the wings, Wendell Potter, former vice president of public relations at Cigna, is blowing the whistle on healthcare insurer practices that he says have crippled our system. At a June hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Potter testified that Cigna regularly purged customers. Potter described purging as a routine practice in which underwriters would “jack up” already expensive insurance rates when a small business policy was up for renewal. The rates would be raised so high that employers would be forced to drop their policies. Chris Curran, a Cigna spokesman, denies the company engages in this practice.

Potter now serves as Senior Fellow on Health Care for the non-partisan Center for Media and Democracy. He supports legislation that would give people the opportunity of joining a government health care plan. Considering the current debate in both the public and in Congress, Potter said in an editorial column on CMD, “remember this:  whenever you hear a politician or pundit use the term “government-run health care” and warn that the creation of a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers (or heaven forbid, a single-payer system like the one Canada has) will “lead us down the path to socialism,” know that the original source of the sound bite most likely was some flack like I used to be.”

—Sarah Harvey