Ex-Cigna Exec Wendell Potter: ‘I Don’t Think Co-ops Have A Chance To Succeed Or Compete’

The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held a forum Tuesday to highlight the urgent need for comprehensive health insurance reform. Democratic Steering and Policy Committee co-chairs Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) chaired the hearing, which featuring a panel of experts on health insurance, the health insurance industry, and health insurance reform.

One of the panelists, former Cigna Health Insurance executive-turned whistleblower Wendell Potter, said in his opening statement that if Congress “fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the president might as well be called the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.”

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asks the panelists about health co-ops saying, “I’d like to hear the views of Mr. Potter and Dr. Rohack regarding co-ops and their ability to provide competition and accountability and for Dr. Rohack, especially, in light of a recent poll of doctors indicating over 60% of them support a public option and some 10% of them support a single payer system:

“Potter: I don’t think co-ops have a chance to succeed or compete. It’s very hard to overcome the barriers in any given market to be able to sell insurance and the big insurance companies have very big economies of scale. The co-op just could not ramp up or have at any point… you have to buy your way into them unless you’re already there and the co-op wouldn’t have the resources to able to do that. They just would not have a prayer to be able to compete with the big, dominant companies.

Dr. Rohack: I think if we were in this room back in 1973 and ‘74, that was the last time Congress did something to try and control health care costs, and that was creating federal grants to create health maintenance organizations, and if you take a look at the HMOs where they created the federal grants that are community based, the dollars stay in the community…you have other community-based models that seem to work. It was only when the consolidation became a problem that we have developed the current situation we’re in right now. So that would be the only concern about co-ops — is that what would prevent them from consolidating in ten or 15 years from now? We’ll be back right where we are now dealing with large, national companies that don’t provide choice at a local level.”

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