Wendell Potter, My New Hero

I have a new hero.  His name is Wendell Potter, and he is a quiet-spoken, unassuming, middle-aged, white man-a native Tennessean-who is a former insurance company executive.  When he stopped working for Cigna he began to speak out, telling Americans what he saw and did during his more than 15 years in the private health insurance industry. 

I heard him first on the Bob Edwards show on National Public Radio.  The interview was so riveting that I sat in my car in a 95-degree garage to hear it to the end.  I dared not miss a minute of the education he was providing.  Since then I have looked further at his associations and his work in informing the American public about health care reform and the role that private insurance is taking in trying to prevent it from happening.  I find this man to be unassailably credible, primarily because he had nothing to gain (and much to lose) by leaving his cushy insurance job and becoming a truth-teller for his fellow citizens.  He is a man motivated only by the desire to right the wrongs that he has witnessed, and help provide decent health care for all of us.  Those motives are pretty doggone clean when you set them beside the profit motive that all those private insurers are living by. 

It takes courage to hear the truth.  We should all be courageous citizens, tireless in our quest for truth and compassion and dignity for all Americans.  About 99 percent of the time, this seems too flighty and idealistic and just plain difficult.  About 99 percent of the time, we want a quicky sound bite, an extra $10 in our pocket, and the feeling of belonging.  We prefer to feel that our local elected officials (and I’m talking east Tennessee and everywhere that a public option is being opposed) are batting for us and we don’t have to pay too much attention or take up a sign and walk the line for ourselves.  Unfortunately, that is not the truth.  Our local officials don’t want health care reform.  They want to continue to have friends and contributors in the private health insurance industry.  They don’t mind suspending reality to stick to the proscribed script, telling us that health care reform will be bad for us and that the current system is what we want and need. 

When Barack Obama mounted a campaign for president of this country, something happened to me.  I woke up.  I felt something that I thought died with Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.  I felt personal commitment and a sense of responsibility, and I stopped plugging my ears and started writing letters.  I also felt that-just possibly-my words and votes and actions had some small impact here. 

I already made a blog entry today.  I don’t want to be political all the time, nor do I intend the major subject of this blog to change.  But when I listen to Wendell Potter in this interview with Bill Moyers, and recall a conversation in a doctor’s waiting room just a few days ago, a woman confused about the implications of health care reform, but angry at her husband’s impossibly expensive prescription regimen, I have to come back to this topic.  As in Jeremiah 20:9, when he has a message that must come out: “…but His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not,” I feel the urgency and pressure of dispensing this message.

Here’s Wendell Potter:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QwX_soZ1GI.  Please take the time. 

Peace.