Wendell Potter, a former top CIGNA health insurance official, left his job recently and is trying to atone for his role in propagating what he called “Wall Street-run health care that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.” Appearing on PBS two weeks ago, Potter also divulged that the private health care industry “was really concerned” with Michael Moore’s documentary SiCKO because Moore “hit the nail on the head with his movie.” Host Bill Moyers posted copies of internal strategy memos from AHIP, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry, detailing how to discredit Moore and conduct a PR campaign to maintain the status quo.
Now, as Congress moves into high-gear for reforming health care, AHIP appears be positioning itself to defeat a public option by using the same playbook they used against Moore in 2007. The AHIP anti-Moore memo similarly states:
Define the Health Indusrance Industry as Part of the Solution … Spread the word about ‘proactive solutions’ for health care … Highlight the value of managed care … A Debate We Can Win: Improving U.S. System Versus Enacting Government-Run Care
This week, AHIP released a new feel-good ad that posits private insurance as the cure to America’s health care crisis, along with a statement reaffirming that Congress must enact reform “without creating a government run plan” to compete with insurers. Similar to its message against Moore, the narrator for the new AHIP ad declares that “we’re America’s Health Insurance Companies, supporting bipartisan reforms.” Watch it:
A central strategy of the anti-Moore memo is described as: “Focus on Our Reform Proposals While Patients and Allies Make the Case Against Government-Run Care.” The allies were instructed to “showcase victims and horrors of government-run systems” and “bring victims of single-payer systems to the US for a media tour.” Indeed, while AHIP has made significant efforts this year to portray itself as “for reform” without a public option, it has left allied groups to do the dirty work.
The allies AHIP is leaning on this year include vicious attack groups such as Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR), a group run by the same firm that managed the “Swift Boats” campaign against John Kerry, and Patients United, an astroturf group run by a former associate of Jack Abramoff. CPR is spending $20 million dollars running fear-mongering ads featuring people upset with the health care system in Canada and the UK. In addition, as AHIP had planned for Moore in 2007, CPR manages a website with various videos showing the supposed horrors of government-run systems. Patients United has organized advertising campaigns and media tours for experts and similar “victims” of government health care.
The ultimate goal of the anti-Moore strategy, to “disqualify government-run health care as a politically viable solution,” appears to mirror what we see AHIP doing today.