Ex-Cigna exec: I used to discredit Canada's health system, but they do it better

Morgan Haefner -   Print  |

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the strengths of Canada's health system, former Cigna executive Wendell Potter said in an interview with NPR.

Before the interview, Mr. Potter, Cigna's former vice president for corporate communications, tweeted his thoughts June 25 on pandemic responses in the U.S. and Canada. He wrote: "Amid America's #COVID19 disaster, 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. It was a lie & the nations' COVID responses prove it."

He expanded on his argument in the NPR interview. He said as a communications director at Cigna, he received "cherry-picked data and anecdotes" from trade organizations around wait times in the Canadian healthcare system to use as arguments against a nationalized system.

"I needed to describe what I used to do for a living to try to scare people away from the Canadian healthcare system because insurance companies fear that," Mr. Wendell told NPR. "They know that if the U.S. moves to a system like that, it would certainly put a real crimp in their profits."

America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's largest lobbying group, has argued that nationalized systems like "Medicare for All" don't address healthcare affordability and would lead to longer wait times, lower care quality, and higher taxes, premiums and costs for people with private insurance.

Mr. Potter has spoken out against commercial insurers' tactics before. In January, he argued the stance that "Medicare for All" would limit choice is a "P.R. concoction" that is inaccurate and a "political ploy."

Read the full interview here.

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