Former Health Insurance Executive Admits His Industry Lied About Canada’s System

The coronavirus is more than a pandemic: it’s a bright spotlight on the issues plaguing every social system in the U.S. Maybe none are as nakedly exposed as our failing healthcare system, which struggled for months to even conduct basic testing.

Now, as the rest of the world has started to lower their COVID-19 cases, many areas in the U.S. are experiencing a second surge of infections. At the same time, people are still unemployed or losing their jobs as the threat of a double-dip recession looms. Since many people’s health care is tied to their employment, that means even more uninsured people getting sick.

It’s pretty hard to get the country functional and healthy again when its citizens are afraid of bankrupting themselves with a hospital stay. And yet, many people fight universal healthcare and not just politicians. Why? Because they’ve been fed a steady stream of misinformation about the quality and service of that health care by lobbyists from pharmaceutical companies and others who have a vested interest in the system as it stands.

Wendell Potter worked two decades in the health insurance industry, Upworthy reports, first for Humana and then for Cigna. On Thursday, he admitted in a thread that part of his job was spreading lies about Canada’s single-payer system:

“I must come clean about a lie I spread as a health insurance exec: We spent big $$ to push the idea that Canada’s single-payer system was awful & the U.S. system much better,” he wrote. “It was a lie & the nations’ COVID responses prove it.”

He continued, “The truth: Canada’s doing much better than the U.S. when it comes to #COVID19 testing & treatment. On a per capita basis, more Canadians are being tested & fewer getting sick & dying. This may shock Americans who still believe the lies I told about the Canadian health care system.”

He explained that lobbying groups created by his industry, health insurance, who used cherry-picked data to create the picture they wanted, tricking Americans into believing that getting treatment in Canada meant waiting for ages and that taxes were astronomically higher.

But he points out that “In Canada, no one gets turned away from doctors due to lack of funds. In America, exorbitant bills are a defining feature of the system.”

He signed off by encouraging people to support Medicare for all.

Is this message too little too late? I supposed it depends on if the right people see it, but Potter and his colleagues have definitely made the world a worse place. His thread did open up discussion about healthcare in both countries that will likely be informative for anyone taken in by his previous lobbying efforts:

If there is something to be learned from COVID, it’s that no one can be healthy if their neighbors are not. Healthcare for all.