On December 20, 2007, a 17 year old girl named Nataline Sarkisyan died after a three year struggle with leukemia. Cigna, the insurance company that covered her, refused to provide coverage for the liver transplant that she needed to live. They did, however, provide the same amount of money for an "Investor Day" meeting to announce their earnings just a few days before Nataline died.
Soon after that time, a gentlemen by the name of Wendell Potter, Cigna's VP of Corporate Communications, left Cigna after it became clear to him that the company wanted him to wage a spin campaign to make it look like they didn't essentially kill Nataline. He couldn't take it any more. And now he has book out about the entire experience. A book, incidentally, that answers (again) how private corporations harm people or, in this case, kill them.
Generally, there are two parts to the strategy. One is what they’re doing publicly, what you can see. The other is what they’re doing behind the scenes — working with PR firms like APCO and through the think tanks.
They approach this very strategically. It’s important to note that the committee that I was on for quite a while, the Strategic Communications Committee, they’ve been working on this for a long, long, time well before the elections were held in 2008. They see all these organizations as ways to communicate with public opinion.
Think tanks are particularly important because they have good connections. The Heritage Foundation, CATO, the American Enterprise Institute and the Galen Institute and a few others that issue reports and commentary and people from those organizations themselves have connections to the media, can get op-eds placed in the Wall Street Journal and other places.
Insurers also work through their PR firms with T.V. producers, in particular, the conservative talk shows like Fox. They see that as a very very important place to go to get their point of view across and the producers are probably on speed dial.
Insurers also worked for a long, long, time, as I did when I was with Cigna, to develop relationships with reporters in the mainstream media. I certainly had very good relationships with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today.
It's as simple as that, folks. Even easier when the place you start from is having a large group of people that have a pathological distrust of government to help you along. So it becomes the government that has the death panels, they say, not them, knowing full well that they are the actual death panel and the government could stand in their way by actually enforcing the law. And just like that, a family who has paid their premiums and expected coverage watches a loved one die. Worse, the family is at fault, not the insurance company, and blaming the victim is the icing on the cake.
I'm trying to imagine what kind of people think it's alright to spend a quarter of million dollars on a party as opposed to saving a person's life. It makes me sick to think about it but that's our society today...driven by insatiable greed and supported by anti government fervor that enables it.