Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for a health insurance plan during the open enrollment period (after it was extended due to technical difficulties).In the U.S., not having health insurance is a huge risk due to the astronomical costs of even basic healthcare services in the country. Unfortunately, health insurance premiums are not easy to afford either, and have been increasing every year as Republicans have done everything in their power to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

The problem is so out of control that multiple Democratic presidential candidates are calling for Medicare for All—a universal healthcare program that would use tax dollars to make every visit to the hospital free for everyone. Other, more centrist Democrats have criticized this idea, in part by claiming that it will take away their healthcare choices, such as which doctor they’re allowed to see.

The former vice president of health insurance company Cigna, Wendell Potter, took to Twitter Monday to explain how the idea that the current system gives people any “choice” in their healthcare was pushed by these companies and why it’s a lie.

“As a health insurance PR guy, we knew one of the huge ‘vulnerabilities’ of the current system was LACK of choice,” Potter wrote. “In the current system, you can’t pick your own doc, specialist, or hospital without huge ‘out of network’ bills. So we set out to muddy the issue of ‘choice.'”

Currently, health insurance companies will only cover what they call “in-network” doctors. If you see anybody outside of this list, your visit and any services that doctor performs will not be covered and you’ll be stuck with the full bill. For low-income individuals, even the “choice” offered in the list of in-network doctors can be restricted by the distance to their office and their office hours.

If you get your health insurance through your employer, you have even less choice.

So how did health insurance companies, which will, of course, become obsolete if Medicare for All is put into place, convince us that the current system offers us so much choice? According to Potter, mostly advertising.

The health insurance industry even fought to ensure people have less choice within the current system, creating a so-called “Choice and Competition Coalition” to “scare states away from creating exchanges with better plans.”

Formerly a tactic used solely by health insurance companies, Potter was shocked to hear Democratic presidential candidates repeating these same lines to attack their opponents and Medicare for All.

Potter’s thread has spread quickly, generating tens of thousands of interactions in one day. Many Twitter users have come out to support his message and offer up their own examples of the “choices” that the current system offers them.

“So if a politician tells you they oppose reforming the current healthcare system because they want to preserve ‘choice,’ either they don’t know what they’re talking about—or they’re willfully ignoring the truth,” Potter concludes. “I assure you, the insurance industry is delighted either way.”

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*First Published: December 17, 2019, 11:23 am