If you take the time to read the book “Deadly Spin” by a former Senior VP of CIGNA, you may decide not to!
For a long time, I’ve said (among other things) that “buying insurance is like giving someone money to protect you from something that’ll never happen so that they can not protect you when it does.” A lot of friends and acquaintances look at me as if I’m either ignorant or insane when I suggest that the single biggest thing wrong with America is the insurance industry. But finally – after the publication of Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans – I feel vindicated. One of my key assertions for some time has been that insurance is pretty much the sole reason that health care is as expensive as it is, which – given its tidal-wave-like ripple impact on the economy – should be reason enough. But it goes much deeper. The insurance industry as a whole is a ridiculous con game rife with greed, corruption, and deceit, and if you don’t think so, you probably haven’t had to make significant legitimate claims on a policy. Or don’t pay attention to the news. If the personal experiences that I’VE been involved in were the only stories out there, I might think that I and my small circle had just had bad luck. But the horror stories of insurance companies are everywhere. Love or hate Michael Moore (I lean a little to the latter, for the record), his movie Sicko was a fact-based eye-opener mostly focusing on the now-common insurance industry “innovation” called rescission. Which in a nutshell can be defined as “hiring a bunch of people to figure out how to not pay on policies you’ve sold“. If you have doubts about the veracity of Sicko’s stories, read in Deadly Spin about the PR panic it caused at the highest levels of the insurance industry. The author was right there on the inside working on damage control. My personal stories range from a hospital charging almost a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS A WEEK for a standard room during my now-deceased mother’s hospital care, to a series of attempts by companies trying to weasel out of paying for business associates’ obviously legit claims, to a few stories from friends who had adjusters showing up while they wept over their smoldering homes, with a check in hand to help them out. How thoughtful! Unfortunately, they were checks for a third of the legitimate value of the claim. That’s a classic industry technique. Look like the good guy up front while you screw the customer from the other side. Even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had a run in with the industry. And lost. Like many homeowners in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lott was shocked to find that his insurance company didn’t think wind had destroyed his house, but that water did. That meant they didn’t have to pay. Lott played the “Don’t you know who I AM?” game, and lost. We’ll never know all the facts there, but we DO know that when he tried to wield the power of Washington and Homeland Security, the industry didn’t flinch. And that appears to have riled him up so much that he may have resorted to behind-the-scenes intimidation and bribery.
So if the power of a senate leader doesn’t scare the insurance industry, what will?
Pretty much nothing. Although different reasons are typically offered for Lott’s eventual resignation, the real reason probably is that by stepping down when he did – two weeks before new legislation that would have prevented him from becoming a lobbyist took effect – he was able to get into the business that he’s now in, i.e.: lobbying. Apparently Lott learned where the REAL power in this country is the hard way.
But I’m rambling on all pitchfork-and-torchy here. Don’t take MY word for what an appalling monstrosity the insurance industry really is, let an old man who worked at the top of it for decades and couldn’t live with himself any more tell you. You’ll probably be stunned at some of the things you learn, and even if you you don’t care about the immorality of it all, Wendell Potter serves up a lot of simple facts about the history of insurance in America that will probably surprise you. It was once a brilliant idea for spreading risk amongst many, and has become a bizarre tool for enhancing the extravagant wealth of a very few.