Former insurance exec turns on industry

    Cigna’s former spokesperson says health insurers’ mislead consumers

    A former spokesman for Philadelphia-based Cigna now says the health insurance industry’s communication practices are misleading. The retired executive spoke during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today.

    Listen:

    [audio:090624kgcigna.mp3]

    Read Wendell Potter’s testimony here.

    Wendell Potter retired from Cigna and now works for a PR watchdog group. His complaint is that insurance language is purposefully misleading in an effort to deny benefits to consumers. He told the Senators that the words used to describe health benefits are misleading to consumers.

    Potter:
    They’re a combination of medical, legal, marketing jargon usually and buzzwords and terms that the industry uses that have little meaning to the rest of the American public.

    Kevin Flynn agrees.

    Flynn: It’s very confusing and a lay person doesn’t have a chance of understanding all of these.

    His group, Healthcare Advocates, helps translate benefits to patients.

    Flynn: Because there are so many different structures, mechanisms, benefit limitations and acronyms throughout the industry the lay person doesn’t really understand how to do all this.

    Potter is now a senior fellow with the watchdog group, Center for Media and Democracy. He has written that he left the insurance industry because he was riding corporate jets and eating off gold-rimmed China, which he says was paid for by insurance premiums.

    Cigna did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. A spokesperson for the company has said that Cigna implemented a campaign last year to use more clear definitions in describing benefits. And several House members have introduced a bill that would require standardized labels that explain coverage in health insurance plans.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.