Summary and book reviews of Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter

Deadly Spin

An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans

By Wendell Potter

Deadly Spin
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2010,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2011,
    304 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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Book Summary

In June 2009, Wendell Potter made national headlines with his scorching testimony before the Senate panel on health care reform. This former senior VP of CIGNA explained how health insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, how they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and how they skew political debate with multibillion-dollar PR campaigns designed to spread disinformation.

Potter had walked away from a six-figure salary and two decades as an insurance executive because he could no longer abide the routine practices of an industry where the needs of sick and suffering Americans take a backseat to the bottom line. The last straw: when he visited a rural health clinic and saw hundreds of people standing in line in the rain to receive treatment in stalls built for livestock.

In Deadly Spin, Potter takes readers behind the scenes to show how a huge chunk of our absurd healthcare spending actually bankrolls a propaganda campaign and lobbying effort focused on protecting one thing: profits. Whatever the fate of the current health care legislation, it makes no attempt to change that fundamental problem.

Potter shows how relentless PR assaults play an insidious role in our political process anywhere that corporate profits are at stake - from climate change to defense policy. Deadly Spin tells us why - and how - we must fight back.

Chapter 11
The Campaign Against Sicko

Most of the two thousand people who crowded into the Grand Théâtre Lumière at the Cannes Film Festival early on Saturday morning, May 19, 2007, for the world premiere of Sicko, Michael Moore's indictment of the U.S. health care system, rose to their feet at the end of the film and gave Moore and his new documentary an astonishing fifteen-minute standing ovation.

One young man, however, could not stay to applaud because of an urgent assignment. Largely unnoticed, he slipped out of the theater and made his way to his hotel room, where he placed a call to the organization in Washington, D.C., that not only had covered his trip to the French Riviera and his ticket to the premiere but also paid his salary.

Dialing America's Health Insurance Plans, he was immediately patched into a conference call where dozens of insurance executives, including me, waited anxiously on the line. All knew of the threat to the industry; ...

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Potter's closing chapters expand from the detail he shares about one American industry to a much broader issue – the shrinking of traditional journalism and the substitution of spin and opinion for objective information sources. Potter discusses a key element of what librarians often call information literacy. When we can no longer identify the source of critical, factual information – like our news or the data used to create legislation – how can we trust its accuracy? The lessons from Potter's book stretch beyond the one contentious issue of American health care. The phrase "required reading" may be overused, but I think it applies doubly here. This book should be on those lists in schools and colleges that first gave rise to the term; and readers, like me, who are past the stage of formal education should likewise add this title to their self-made list of essentials.   (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).

Full Review Members Only (852 words).

Media Reviews
Time

May be the ideal whistleblower.

Kirkus Reviews

An illuminating, up-to-the-minute testimonial sure to garner widespread attention and controversy.

Publishers Weekly

These criticisms aren't new, but Potter's street cred and deep knowledge of the industry make his indictment unusually vivid and compelling.

Booklist

[Potter] ridicules the notion that America's free-market system can provide actual health care within a for-profit structure… This whistle-blower perspective will heighten discussion and debate on the vital topic of health care in America.

Author Blurb Howard Dean
The recently passed health care bill did many good things, including make health insurance available to more Americans and restrain some of the most egregious practices of the health insurance industry. It also forced more people to become customers of that industry. What the bill did not do is reform the healthcare system. Wendell Potter explains why not, and what went wrong.

Author Blurb Bill Moyers
Wendell Potter is a straight shooter - and he hits the bulls-eye here with an exposé of corporate power that reveals why real health care reform didn't happen, can't happen, and won't happen until that power is contained.

Author Blurb Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia
Wendell Potter transformed the national debate over health care when he stood up and told the truth about the health insurance industry. By breaking the insurance industry's code of silence and explaining to his fellow Americans how health insurance companies put profits ahead of patient care, Wendell showed extraordinary courage. The compelling story of Wendell's conversion from a health care executive to an outspoken reform advocate is essential reading for anyone trying to understand the American health care system.

Reader Reviews
James Reynolds

Riveting expose
In my twenty five years as a primary care physician, I have seen hundreds of instances of working Americans in rural and urban areas denied critical health care needs (Broken arm that a patient could not afford the required surgery to repair, twenty ...   Read More

Bob Bland, CEO of Lifequotes, Inc

Horrible Book - avoid it at all cost.
I think that Wendell Potter is a total fraud and that Deadly Spin is highly inaccurate, ill-researched and sloppily written. If Wendell Potter truly spent 20 years lying to us as a corporate PR stiff as he claims, he needs to get into a ...   Read More

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Checking Facts

Deadly Spin unravels misinformation surrounding the contentious topic of American health care. Considering that Wendell Potter has shown how difficult it is to uncover the truth about such a widely discussed issue as this, where can the average citizen turn to find unbiased facts? Some suggestions include:

PolitiFact
This website features the political fact-checking work of the reporters and editors of the St. Petersburg Times. PolitiFact received a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. This site pays particular attention to the promises and policies of the President.

Factcheck
Launched in 2003, Factcheck is a project of the nonprofit Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and researches and documents the truth ...

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