Wendell Potter

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Wendell Potter
Wendell Potter - Montrose Street - cropped.jpg
Potter in 2010
Born (1951-07-16) July 16, 1951 (age 68)
OccupationConsumer advocate, author

Wendell Potter (born July 16, 1951) is an American consumer advocate, journalist, New York Times bestselling author, consultant, and former health insurance industry executive. A critic of HMOs and of the tactics used by insurers, Potter is also an advocate for major reforms of the industry, including universal health care. Prior to his resignation in 2008, Potter was vice president of corporate communications for the health insurance company CIGNA.[1] In June 2009, he testified against the HMO industry in the U.S. Senate to expose health insurance industry practices.[1][2][3] He has served as senior analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, a fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, and a consumer liaison representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Potter is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Healthinsurance.org.

In late 2017, Potter announced the launch of Tarbell, a nonprofit news website that tackles corporate moneyed interests' influence on energy, taxation, politics, and health care.[4]

Early life[edit]

He was born on July 16, 1951 to Blaine and Pearl Potter. Raised in Mountain City, Tennessee, Potter was born in Banner Elk, North Carolina.[5] Potter was the first in his family to complete college, graduating from the University of Tennessee, where he edited the student newspaper Daily Beacon[6] in 1973.


Potter was employed by Humana in Kentucky before moving to Pennsylvania to work for CIGNA in 1993. He began his journey towards resigning and becoming a consumer advocate in July 2007 when he saw a touring free clinic run by Remote Area Medical in rural Virginia:

What he saw appalled him. Hundreds of desperate people, most without any medical insurance, descended on the clinic from out of the hills. People queued in long lines to have the most basic medical procedures carried out free of charge. Some had driven more than 200 miles from Georgia. Many were treated in the open air. Potter took pictures of patients lying on trolleys on rain-soaked pavements.[2]

Potter retired from CIGNA in 2008 and became an active voice on health care reform in 2009.[7][8]

On September 15, 2009, Potter appeared before the United States House of Representatives Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Potter said in his opening statement that if Congress "fails to create a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, the bill it sends to the president might as well be called the Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act."[9]

Potter's November 2010 book Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans details much of the industry's deceitful tactics, putting them in historical context by drawing parallels to the tobacco industry and the history of manipulative public relations, gives a history of health reform, and shares his own personal journey.

In 2013, Potter published an e-book, Obamacare: What's In It For Me? What Everyone Needs to Know About the Affordable Care Act. The book provides an overview of the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act and illustrates how the law affects everyday Americans through stories of Potter family members and friends.

Tarbell.org logo

In 2016, Potter published Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy And What We Can Do About It with co-author Nick Penniman. The book argues that the corrupting influence of big money on U.S. democracy has reached a state of emergency. It details the history of moneyed influences on the U.S. government and makes the case that the situation has grown much worse in recent years, pervading virtually every aspect of American life. The authors also offer solutions citizens can take to repair the damage and make U.S. democracy more responsive to the needs of its people.

In 2017, Potter founded Tarbell.org, a non-profit journalism company, to investigate how powerful people and companies use their influence to shape public opinion and public policy. Tarbell also highlights solutions to the same problems they uncover.[10] Potter, on Tarbell, in Huffington Post:

We’ll explain how and why the wrong-doers get away with it, and we’ll connect the dots to show readers how political corruption financed by moneyed interests affects their lives. We’ll also go the additional and essential mile of spotlighting solutions and helping our community of readers figure out how they can make a difference.[11]

In December 2018, Potter was named president of Business Initiative for Health Policy, a business group supporting universal health coverage.[12] In July 2019, Business Initiative for Health Policy was rebranded to Business for Medicare for All to advocate for the business case for Medicare for All.[13]

See also[edit]


  • Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans (November 16, 2010; Bloomsbury Press; ISBN 978-1-60819-281-6)[14]
  • Obamacare: What's In It For Me? What Everyone Needs to Know About the Affordable Care Act (e-book), (December 6, 2013; Bloomsbury Press; ISBN 9781620407752[15]
  • Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy And What We Can Do About It (Co-author: Nick Penniman), (March 1, 2016; Bloomsbury Press; ISBN 9781632861108)[16]


  1. ^ a b Hilzenrath, David S. (June 25, 2009). "Senate Hears of a Raw Deal Consumers Get From Health Insurers". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  2. ^ a b Paul Harris. "Whistleblower tells of America's hidden nightmare for its sick poor | US news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  3. ^ "Testimony of Wendell Potter" (PDF). Voices.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  4. ^ "Ex-Cigna flack turned activist Wendell Potter starts Tarbell.org, investigative site". Philly.com. 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  5. ^ Potter, Deadly Spin, p. 17.
  6. ^ Potter, Deadly Spin, p. 19.
  7. ^ "The Health Care Industry vs. Health Reform". PR Watch. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  8. ^ Wendell Potter. "Commentary: How insurance firms drive debate". CNN.com. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  9. ^ "Ex-Cigna Exec Wendell Potter: 'I Don't Think Co-ops Have A Chance To Succeed Or Compete' | The Public Record". Pubrecord.org. 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  10. ^ "What is Tarbell?". Tarbell. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  11. ^ Potter, Wendell; Tarbell.org, ContributorFounder of (2017-10-25). "Why We Need 'Pull-No-Punches Reporting' That Holds Big Corporations And Moneyed Interests Accountable". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  12. ^ Diamond, Dan (2018-12-10). "The bruising battle looming over single-payer". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  14. ^ "Bloomsbury". Bloomsbury Press. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  15. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "Obamacare: What's in It for Me?". Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781620407752. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  16. ^ Bloomsbury.com. "Nation on the Take". Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781632861108. Retrieved 2016-03-04.

External links[edit]