Ex-Cigna exec: I helped create the health insurance 'choice' talking point, and regret it

Some presidential candidates argue that healthcare reforms like "Medicare for All" will limit consumers' choice when it comes to health plans. In an op-ed for The New York Times, a former communications leader with Cigna argues the "choice" talking point is a "P.R. concoction" that is inaccurate and a "political ploy."

Five takeaways from the op-ed:

1. Many arguments against a single-payer overhaul of the current U.S. healthcare system center on the idea of choice. Policy advocates and defenders of the current system argue an approach like "Medicare for All" would restrict Americans' ability to choose their health plans or their physicians. 

2. Wendell Potter, former vice president for corporate communications at Cigna, wrote in his op-ed that from his experience, the "choice" talking point was devised by the health insurance industry to shield itself from sweeping reforms that could affect its profits. He said the framing boded well with focus groups of average Amerians and became frequent verbiage in talking points he wrote for insurers.

3. However, Mr. Potter now calls the practice an "everlasting regret." He explained: "Those of us who held senior positions for the big insurers knew that one of the huge vulnerabilities of the system is its lack of choice. In the current system, Americans cannot, in fact, pick their own doctors, specialists or hospitals — at least, not without incurring huge 'out of network' bills."

4. He also noted that most Americans who receive health insurance coverage through their employer have a limited selection based on the contract their company sets with payers.

5. He concluded: "My advice to voters is that if politicians tell you they oppose reforming the healthcare system because they want to preserve your 'choice' as a consumer, they don't know what they're talking about or they're willfully ignoring the truth. Either way, the insurance industry is delighted. I would know."

Read the full op-ed here

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