Like many people who hoped the stars had finally aligned for a fundamental overhaul of our health care system, I have been going through all of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief and loss — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — as I’ve watched what has been happening in the Senate. I moved toward acceptance this morning as I watched the Senate pass its bill, but — being an incurable optimist — I’m still hopeful that the legislation can be improved when Senate and House conferees meet to determine what the final bill will look like.
But even if all the problems of the Senate bill can’t be fixed in conference, Congress must send the president a bill to sign — and soon.
I’m the former insurance industry insider now speaking out about how big for-profit insurers have hijacked our health care system and turned it into a giant ATM for Wall Street investors, and how the industry is using its massive wealth and influence to determine what is (and is not) included in the health care reform legislation members of Congress are now writing.
Although by most measures I had a great career in the insurance industry (four years at Humana and nearly 15 at CIGNA), in recent years I had grown increasingly uncomfortable serving as one of the industry’s top PR executives. In addition to my responsibilities at CIGNA, which included serving as the company’s chief spokesman to the media on all corporate and financial matters, I also served on a lot of trade association committees and industry-financed coalitions, many of which were essentially front groups for insurers. So I was in a unique position to see not only how Wall Street analysts and investors influence decisions insurance company executives make but also how the industry has carried out behind-the-scenes PR and lobbying campaigns to kill or weaken any health care reform efforts that threatened insurers’ profitability.