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Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  694 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
Wendell Potter is the insurance industry's worst nightmare.
In June 2009, Wendell Potter made national headlines with his scorching testimony before the Senate panel on health care reform. This former senior VP of CIGNA explained how health insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, how they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and how they skew
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Bloomsbury Press (first published October 25th 2010)
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Jan 12, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
I have been following Wendell Potter with fascination since he first surfaced on Countdown and then in the long interview with Bill Moyers. It is rare indeed to find a top-level executive who will set aside his career in order to follow his conscience. Potter is such a man. I was delighted to receive an advance copy of the book through Goodreads and am pleased to review it.
It is not fun to read. I say this because of the content. The style is altogether excellent, the work of a trained journali
Dec 22, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting but puzzling book from my Canadian perspective. It was also disquieting in that our conservative politicians seem intent on pushing us towards an American model in regards to public services. From our point of view, how can the American people be so fearful of "big government" controlling healthcare? At least governments can be voted out, or pressured to work for the people. If you are in a democracy (And you are, right America?) then you government ostensibly works f ...more
Dec 02, 2015 Gayle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I read this book because it is mentioned in Nader's Getting Steamed Over Corporatism. I also read it because I am one of the more than 50 million Americans without health insurance in a country where the corporate interest always takes precedence over individuals. Mr. Potter knows of what he speaks. He worked in public relations for 25 years, 15 of those years for CIGNA, one of America's beloved "It's not our fault!" corporate insurers.

Yes, Mr. Nader and Mr. Potter, I'm steamed! Just a few of We
Dec 16, 2016 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: squirrel abatement officers
Shelves: own, health-policy

I received this as an ARC in 2010 and, yes, just now I'm reviewing it. I'll ignore the ARC-related issues, such as misnumbered footnotes, which presumably were corrected for the first proper edition, and move right on to the real flaws:

1) a lack of tight focus on healthcare/health insurance, while spending too much time on the public relations industry and what it does in lots of areas, not just health insurance; relatedly, a narrative that was not linear, but bobbing all over the place in term
Dec 02, 2010 Oldroses rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, first-reads
The title of this book, "Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans" is a bit off-putting. Reading it, I mentally prepared myself for a diatribe written by a disgruntled low-level employee out to get his pound of flesh. We all know that health insurance companies are in the habit of denying coverage and raising premiums, occasionally exorbitantly, but they aren’t all that bad, right? Surely not as bad as the Wall Street ...more
Apr 14, 2016 Clif rated it really liked it
Deadly Spin is a plainly written account by a man who rose to the top in the health insurance PR field, became unable to continue pushing out disinformation and quit to sound the alarm. This book describes something that we are inundated with in America: carefully crafted, heavily funded BS. Americans are cynical because they are trained to be by everyday experience in marketing.

I first became aware of Wendell Potter when I saw a video news clip where he was apologizing to Michael Moore for all
Richard Etzel
May 28, 2012 Richard Etzel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political
If you ever wondered how the state of health care got into the current mess with millions of Americans without insurance, then you must read this book. The second title tells it all. Wendell Potter, a "spin doctor" for Cigna insurance left the company when it became impossible for him to live with his conscience. Decisions to refuse service to Cigna customers, even if it involved imminent death or death itself, finally caused him to say "enough". He had to do something to alert the public so he ...more
Clif Hostetler
Mar 09, 2012 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
I've long been puzzled why many Americans seem to be more frightened by government provided health insurance than they are of private health insurance companies. Even many of those who are currently covered by Medicare are alarmed at the prospect of "socialized medicine" that may result from implementation of a public option of health insurance. Do people really trust their insurance companies that much?

This book partly explains why many people have unrealistic fears that cause them to support p
Sep 30, 2011 Book rated it it was amazing
Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out On How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans by Wendell Potter

“Deadly Spin” is the excellent, insightful book about Public Relations spin. The focus of this book is on health-care spin. Former public-relations executive Wendell Potter provides an expose of corporate greed and human indifference that will make you sick. This 304-page book is composed of the following twelve chapters: I. The Beginning, II. The Campaign Agai
Jan 03, 2011 Giselle rated it liked it
Recommended to Giselle by: goodreads
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book through goodreads first-reads! Wendell Potter is a courageous person, and he is genuinely penitent about any possible harm his career in the Medical Industrial Complex has done to individuals, groups or classes of individuals, and to the Nation at large. He is awash with a desire to make amends. Cool.

The best amends consist of revealing his insider knowledge of the Medical Industrial Complex, the healthcare insurance industry, and the history of legal and illegal activities and m
Dec 02, 2010 Ashley rated it it was amazing
It took me a week or so to devote enough time to this one, and I'm glad I waited until I had time to really focus on what Potter had to say.

After just a few pages, I had to break out the highlighter. Post-it notes and bent page corners just weren't cutting it - Potter packs so much info into this 250-pager. It was not, like I had initially feared, incredibly dense, but was written in a way that made all Potter's points and explanations easily understandable and relatable. Like many people, I've
Mar 20, 2011 Ross rated it it was amazing
I read this at the same time as Michael Lewis's The Big Short, and found Deadly Spin both more interesting and more important - despite its much lower profile and promotional budget. This is despite my initial hesitancy, totally unfounded, that its contents might be somehow obsolete or stale in light of the recent health care legislation.

While Potter focuses on the PR tricks of for-profit health insurers (who can increase their profits by decreasing their payouts to policyholders), he also shows
Apr 20, 2011 Asha rated it it was amazing
Best... midlife... crisis.. ever.

I agree with those reviewers who say that the book is a little unfocused (PR + healthcare + journalism), and I also agree with those who assert that it could be split into multiple books (and may well be in the future). My only other gripe is that Potter avoids thorough explanations of some complex and confusing subjects to avoid losing his reader (e.g. ERISA - I still don't really get what happens when the insurers are tried on a federal level).

Finally, though
Barb McCarthy
Nov 16, 2012 Barb McCarthy rated it it was amazing
This book does more than give you an insider's perspective on what the health insurance industry is doing to destroy the public health option. It gives a historical perspective of why health costs have increased astronomically and how all the players share responsibility. Our government representatives are not educated well enough in the spin industry and the ability for these companies to use our premium dollars to sell us short is disgusting. I think we are all aware how PR firms manipulate in ...more
This book might be called "The Trials and Tribulations of a Whistleblower." An executive with PR responsibilities at large health insurance firms, after 20 years or so his conscience woke him up, he got out, and joined the other side. While I don't think health insurers are any more honest or ethical than tobacco companies, big oil companies, I wish the author were equally skeptical of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al. The bits of history I *know* he gets wrong make me suspicious of his relating of ot ...more
Nov 30, 2011 Jo rated it it was amazing
I get so frustrated when people get their "facts" from websites, email, and sponsored newscasts. We all need to carefully research the facts before we speak out for or against partisan action. Read and discern. I make a point of reading books written by those on the right and the left and those who have real experience with the issues. That said, this is a great look at how the insurance industry deceives us and how public relation experts are able to manipulate (spin) us. This is not a slur on ...more
Dec 26, 2010 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could say that this book was full of lies and exaggerations, because that would make reflections on the Health Care debate much more palatable. Much of what Potter says are things I'd prefer not to acknowledge, and hearing it from an industry insider only makes everything sound worse. It was especially revealing to see how the spin authored by Insurance PR staffs to protect the industry and not the public became sound bites for political activits supposedly acting on the behalf of the p ...more
Mar 31, 2011 Scarlet rated it really liked it
Good overview of the history of health care reform attempts in the US, but I was hoping for something with a little more insider info on the health insurance industry. Yes, I know they are motivated by profit, and I understand the concept of astroturf lobbying. Maybe this book would be a little more groundbreaking for someone who wasn't familiar with the skanky side of PR, but I've been watching corporate PR scum tactics for nearly 20 years, so it wasn't as interesting as I expected.

And the bigg
Nov 28, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
Potter's book is part autobiography and wholly expose from within of how the medical insurance industry corporations have repeatedly derailed efforts at health care reform. He also details the industry's duplicitous campaign, partly successful, to defeat the health care reform legislation which President Obama sought. Potter moves on from there to summarize the "playbook" industries use to defeat reform efforts and outlines exactly how tobacco, BP and big banks have used the playbook to deflect ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie by: radio interview
The author, Wendell Potter, used to work for Cigna. His job there was to essentially make his health insurance company look good even if he had to spin the truth to do it. He eventually realized he was unhappy enough with what he was doing to quit this very high paying job of his. He eventually ended up testifying for health care reform in front of congress and talking about the things insurance companies really do after President Obama took office. In this book, he talks about how the most impo ...more
Mike Windbigler
Oct 11, 2016 Mike Windbigler rated it really liked it
If you ever wondered how corporate America so easily convinces us to vote against our best interests, this book explains it.

Written by a gentleman who was paid handsomely for convincing us that affordable healthcare was bad for us and America.
Mar 29, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it
He's wrong about Obama. Corporatism is not a Dem or Rep thing. Oligarchs own BOTH parties. D vs. R is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Ocare is just a gov enforced payout to insurance co. We get rationed healthcare. Costs are already going up and ins co say they don't have enough money....can't afford 100 million bonuses?

Quislings in WA work for oligarchs not you or me. Competition protects the consumer better than any gov program will. Sadly, quislings in WA don't work for you
May 13, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing
This turned out to be a David vs. Goliath story: Journalism vs. Public relations, "crisis management", and greed. I really don't like being lied to or manipulated by half truths, innuendo, and fear tactics. So this was a very upsetting book even though I suspected that this was what was going on. The author states, "Without basic knowledge of PR tactics and the ability to distinguish between fact and distortion, Americans- and that includes journalists, both professional and "citizen"-are at the ...more
Todd Martin
Oct 25, 2012 Todd Martin rated it really liked it
The 20th century has been characterized by four developments of great importance: the growth of political democracy, the growth of online democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

- Alex Carey

As former Vice President of corporate communications at CIGNA as well as a former journalist, Wendell Potter is in a unique position to expose the practices of the medical insurance industry and the work that
Blog on Books
Jan 06, 2011 Blog on Books rated it really liked it
With the return of Congress to the Republicans this week, and their stated agenda of repealing health care reform, now seems like an apropos time to revisit Wendell Potter’s remarkable tell-all about PR and the health care industry, “Deadly Spin.” Potter, the former CIGNA PR chief turned industry whistle-blower, reveals in notable detail, the myriad methods used by leading health care providers, PR firms and third-party front groups, to derail any legislative agendas that are counter to their co ...more
May 04, 2015 Mike rated it it was amazing
You know an author of a non-fiction book like this has done their job if you are MAD at the end. Well, this is one book that took me a long time to read because I was mad at the end of nearly every chapter.

I knew there was something that smelled like rotten fish throughout the campaign waged against the Affordable Care Act while it was in Congress. What I did not realize was the depth of the rot and dishonesty of the campaign -- it took an insider like Wendell Potter, a former health insurance
Jul 12, 2013 Laurie rated it it was amazing
I finished this book in one day. Part of it was because I had lots of time to read. But part of it was because I really enjoyed the topic. This is a book that everyone needs to read because the more informed we are as consumers and voters and American citizens, the harder it will be for BIG corporations to pull the wool over our eyes and take advantage of us.

This book deals with private health insurance companies because the author was a former health insurance PR executive who put out misinform
Dec 21, 2010 Woodwhisperer rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-read
Deadly Spin

An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out On How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans

By Wendell Potter

This book might also be entitled how Corporate PR is killing Americans and providing deceptive health care. As a Canadian, I found the insider view of American health care to be fascinating and as a former upper level manager found the insider view of the insurance subculture to be completely within reason.

What this book shows is that the American government is co
Jan 19, 2015 Warreni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into the world of manipulation of public opinion, and, by extension, reality

Potter provides an insider's perspective on how health-insurance conglomerates did their level-best to eviscerate or defeat the Affordable Care Act, painting the then-nascent legislation as a "government takeover" of healthcare, raising the specter of bureaucrat-overseen "death panels" and generally spreading lies and disinformation to media outlets in many creative ways. As a former PR executive for C
Nov 14, 2014 Louis rated it liked it
Part memoir and part investigation, Wendell Potter’s Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans chronicles his time in the insurance industry, including the covert behind PR campaign against healthcare reform, and what ultimately led to him resigning from his high-level executive position at CIGNA. Even early on it is striking how many of the talking points from the health insurance industry have made their way into opp ...more
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Wendell Potter is the senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy. He has appeared on countless television and radio programs and has been quoted in newspapers and magazines across the country. Prior to his twenty-five-year career in public relations, he was a journalist for the Memphis Press-Scimitar and Scripps Howard news service.
More about Wendell Potter...

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