News & Media

In good faith: Insurance whistle-blower Wendell Potter will share his story in Pueblo

April 17, 2012  |  Pueblo Chieftain  |  Link to article

The divisive controversy over "Obamacare" is more than a political or financial issue to many people of faith. It has become a primary focus of Faith Leaders in Action, an emerging group of local clergy leaders who have pledged to work together on a variety of issues they agree are crucial to this community's physical and spiritual health.

What does health care have to do with faith? FLiA members believe, as many Americans do, that health care is a basic human right that is denied to many citizens in one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced countries in the world.

But this country's free-market, for-profit system treats health care as a commodity. The biggest losers are those who can't afford insurance but don't qualify for federal coverage through Medicaid or Medicare because their meager incomes are too high to meet the guidelines.

To kick off a local campaign aimed at sparking public discussion about health care — and collecting stories about how Puebloans have been affected by lack of insurance or access to basic care — FLiA will host a community forum at 7 p.m. May 8 in the sanctuary at Wesley United Methodist Church, 85 Stanford Ave.

The event is co-sponsored by Together Colorado, a new organization that combines two Denver-based community activist groups, including the faith-based PICO (People Improving Communities through Organizing). Two Puebloans will share their experiences related to health care, and members of the audience will have an opportunity to share their stories by filling out cards expressing their desire to do so at a later date, either as a group, or individually with FLiA representatives.

There also will be a voter registration table, and another offering information about how to get involved with FLiA's health care campaign.

The highlight of the 75-minute event will be a presentation by nationally known activist and whistle-blower Wendell Potter, author of "Deadly Spin."

Potter, a longtime insurance PR executive, also sees a direct connection between his faith (doing what's ethical and moral) and the way health care is financed in the United States. He says he quit his six-figure job with insurance industry giant Cigna in 2008 to make personal amends for the sins of that company and most other for-profit insurers. His resignation came shortly after the death of a 17-year-old girl who was denied a liver transplant by Cigna.

He began speaking publicly about insurance industry practices in 2009, on TV and radio interviews and at live events nationwide. He also testified before Congress and several committees during the process of passing the Affordable Health Care Reform Act. Potter now is a non-salaried consultant for the Center for Media and Democracy. He publishes a blog about health care and the media and is a columnist for The Huffington Post.

But Potter remains committed to explaining at the grass-roots level what Obamacare is and isn't — and why true reform of the country's health care system isn't possible as long as for-profit insurers are part of the "solution." In his view, the insurance industry is the main problem.

As he explains in the April 10 edition of his online blog (at, insurers are more anxious about the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the law's individual mandate for insurance than are President Obama or any of the Americans who are already benefiting from the new law.

Insurance companies are all for the individual mandate because they know that's the only way of preserving the "free market" system of health care, he said. That system is designed to garner profits for insurance companies and their shareholders by withholding or limiting medical treatment for the people who pay the premiums, and by negotiating with treatment providers to pay various levels of prices for different groups of patients.

"Health insurers have known for years that their business practices of excluding growing numbers of Americans from coverage and shifting more and more of the cost of care to policyholders are not sustainable over the long haul. That’s why their top priority during the health care reform debate was to make sure whatever bill Congress passed included the much-vilified individual mandate. It’s also why the big insurance companies have been working almost frantically to reinvent themselves lately," the blog post says.

Potter next month will explain to his Pueblo audience the main provisions of the new federal health care law, as well as the many problems the law doesn't address. He'll also urge his listeners to do whatever they can to influence future health care policy and ensure that recent progress isn't lost.

He will stay after the event's conclusion to continue the discussion with those who have questions.

For more information about the event, or FLiA, call Wesley UMC at 561-8746.

The date of the forum has been corrected to read May 8.