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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  904 ratings  ·  194 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 p
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published November 16th 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published October 25th 2010)
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Start your review of Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: squirrel abatement officers

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 05, 2010 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 13, 2010 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
Erica Clou
Every American should read this as soon as possible. It's a tell-all by a health care insurance insider. Reading this book is critical to understanding, and not just the health care debate taking place in this country right now, but many of the political debates we're all wallowing in. ...more
Jul 30, 2012 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
Sep 30, 2011 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
Richard Etzel
May 18, 2012 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
Nov 16, 2010 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 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
Dec 13, 2010 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
Apr 18, 2011 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 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
Nov 29, 2011 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
A brilliant take down of the health insurance industry in the USA. This was an eye-opening education in how health insurance functions, who profits, and who suffers. A must read.
Clif Hostetler
Mar 07, 2012 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
Dec 03, 2010 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
Joe Bliven
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great explanation of how the insurance industry and other industries influence public opinion and lawmakers to favor their exploitative business practices. Written by an ex public relations executive from CIGNA (a large insurance provider) who became dissatisfied with his role in helping his industry suck every last penny out of the market at the price of everyday Americans. The book does more than offer this whistle-blower's accounts of his involvement by giving a real crash cour ...more
Oct 31, 2010 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
Nov 23, 2010 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
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
Mar 31, 2011 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 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
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This has got to be one of the most interesting books I've read in a while. It's extremely relevant despite the 2010 pub date.... he essentially calls out the fake news scandals going on now, seven years before it happened. You'll learn lots about health care and PR and the media and how Washington works. Read this!! ...more
Timothy Frasca
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A unique contribution to the debate on Medicare for All a.k.a. single-payer healthcare. The guy was a shill for the insurance companies and finally came to Jesus (metaphorically speaking). He realized he was doing evil and has since tried to make up for it.
Rita Arens
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Horribly depressing but necessary. As my dad says, "Always consider the source."

And always question your medical bills.
Jim Davidson
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: healthcare
The United State's health care system is in service to finance, not people, and Potter's work provides a damning view of how this operates from the inside. ...more
emily Ying
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is certainly engaging(the author probably read the book himself) and probably also professional(he worked in the industry for quite some time and is part of the system, and probably the very beneficiary of such corporate health care system).
The author grows up in Tennesee and talks about his working class background in order to express his alignment with the average American against the "big evil insurance companies" that he is part of. lol.
then the author talks about his experience wo
Adrian Mora
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
What the F! What is the problem???? If this is as accurate as I would like to be I don't see why we don't try the single payer option. My theory is --> If the Big Insurance Companies in charge if our "Healthcare" (but at the same time have a fiduciary responsibility to create profit?? Obviously a direct conflict of interest!) are ready to drop millions upon millions of dollars to create smear campaigns and disinformation content then without a doubt, they are fully aware of how corrupt things ha ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Potter's summary of how universal healthcare or any kind of true reform has been shot down again and again is concise and readable. Having already read the nitty gritty details of the Affordable Care Act in Bryson's America's Bitter Pill, I really appreciated Potter's overarching narrative on US healthcare legislation. His perspective and past experience is useful as a lens. Focusing on the PR spin from the health insurance industry is crucial in understanding the lack of progress the US has mad ...more
Jan 09, 2020 marked it as set-aside
i'm not finished yet, but i'll need to return it to the library soon. i'm around page 50. i should watch michael moore's "sicko" in the meantime. this is one of those books where if you read any 10-20 pages you're going to learn stuff. however, it also brings out how controlled our overton window is & makes me wonder whether this is counter-revolutionary. also the fact the whistleblower worked for the scammers, it does bring in an interesting level of unreliable narration. I'm not saying the whi ...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.

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