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The Problem With Health Care ‘Choice’

Michael Rainey

Defenders of the current U.S. health care system often argue that it offers the best range of “choice” for consumers, but a former industry executive says that claim is misleading.

Wendell Potter, a former vice president for corporate communications at Cigna, says in an op-ed in The New York Times Tuesday that “choice” is a talking point concocted by public relations operatives (including Potter himself) seeking to prevent significant reforms of the health care system.

The problem, Potter says, is that the U.S. health care system actually provides little choice for most participants. Here’s how Potter says it really works:

“The truth, of course, is that Americans now have little ‘choice’ when it comes to managing their health care. Most can’t choose their own plan or how long they retain it, or even use it to select the doctor or hospital they prefer. But some reforms being discussed this election, such as ‘Medicare for all,’ would provide these basic freedoms to users. In other words, the proposed reforms offer more choice than the status quo, not less.

“My advice to voters is that if politicians tell you they oppose reforming the health care system because they want to preserve your ‘choice’ as a consumer, they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re willfully ignoring the truth. Either way, the insurance industry is delighted.”

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