Sunday, July 26, 2009

Whistleblower tells of America's hidden nightmare for its sick poor

When an insurance firm boss saw a field hospital for the poor in Virginia, he knew he had to speak out.

By Paul Harris

Wendell Potter can remember exactly when he took the first steps on his journey to becoming a whistleblower and turning against one of the most powerful industries in America.

It was July 2007 and Potter, a senior executive at giant US healthcare firm Cigna, was visiting relatives in the poverty-ridden mountain districts of northeast Tennessee. He saw an advert in a local paper for a touring free medical clinic at a fairground just across the state border in Wise County, Virginia.

Potter, who had worked at Cigna for 15 years, decided to check it out. What he saw appalled him. Hundreds of desperate people, most without any medical insurance, descended on the clinic from out of the hills.

Potter resigned shortly afterwards. Last month he testified in Congress, becoming one of the few industry executives to admit that what its critics say is true: healthcare insurance firms push up costs, buy politicians and refuse to pay out when many patients actually get sick.

In chilling words he told a Senate committee: "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."

Click here to read the rest of the article at the Guardian

(Photo Above: Patients without health insurance get dental care at a free clinic in Wise, Virginia, held every July for the past three years. More than 25,000 were treated in a weekend Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

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