the health-care epiphany, observations, evolution and cooperation


Epiphanies, ones where the clouds part and you become acutely aware of some great truth, often times so large the sudden awareness makes one cringe in silent embarrassment, are rare. At least they seem rare in real life. Wendell Potter, formerly an executive with gignormous insurance corporation CIGNA, had the kind of epiphany that should shake a few people up about the realities of corporate ethics, social responsibility and that elusive god of pure marketplace goodness – Bill Moyers interview with Potter on PBS,

WENDELL POTTER: Well, I was beginning to question what I was doing as the industry shifted from selling primarily managed care plans, to what they refer to as consumer-driven plans. And they’re really plans that have very high deductibles, meaning that they’re shifting a lot of the cost off health care from employers and insurers, insurance companies, to individuals. And a lot of people can’t even afford to make their co-payments when they go get care, as a result of this. But it really took a trip back home to Tennessee for me to see exactly what is happening to so many Americans.

[  ]…WENDELL POTTER: I did. I borrowed my dad’s car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn’t know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health– booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they’d erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases– and I’ve got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee— all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.(emphasis mine)

Mr. Potter goes on to talk about how Micheal Moore’s Sicko was fairly accurate and the insurance industry’s efforts to discredit the film.

BILL MOYERS: We obtained a copy of the game plan that was adopted by the industry’s trade association, AHIP. And it spells out the industry strategies in gold letters. It says, “Highlight horror stories of government-run systems.” What was that about?

WENDELL POTTER: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you’re heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening.

There are some conservative Democrats that have been happy little puppets for the insurance industry, but most of those that spread the “horror” are on the Right. Just yesterday, as if on cue Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) – claims the public option ‘is gonna kill people.’ All of this kill people hyperbole isn’t even about a national single-payer plan modeled on England’s or Canada’s. Its about an opt-in plan. Those that like the kind of traditional insurance that CIGNA would be happy to sell them would be free to continue pouring their money down that well.


Marion: It always fascinated me how people go from loving you madly to nothing at all, nothing. It hurts so much. When I feel someone is going to leave me, I have a tendency to break up first before I get to hear the whole thing. Here it is. One more, one less. Another wasted love story. I really love this one. When I think that its over, that I’ll never see him again like this… well yes, I’ll bump into him, we’ll meet our new boyfriend and girlfriend, act as if we had never been together, then we’ll slowly think of each other less and less until we forget each other completely. – from 2 days in paris, written by julie delphy. when she says those lines in the movie there’s some tragic/comic irony in her tone. i have mixed feelings about 2 days overall, but some of the voice over observations were especially smart.

‘Invisible hand’ guides evolution of cooperative turn-taking, research shows

Professor Colman said: “In human groups, turn-taking is usually planned and coordinated with the help of language. For example, people living together often agree to take turns washing up the dishes after meals or taking their children to school. But turn-taking has also evolved in many other species without language or the capacity to reach negotiated agreements. These include apes, monkeys, birds, and antelopes that take turns grooming each other, and mating pairs of Antarctic penguins that take turns foraging at sea while their partners incubate eggs or tend to chicks.

[  ]…”But where cooperation involves turn-taking, a ‘tit for tat’ instinct could sustain the pattern once it was established but could not initiate it in the first place. For example, in a mating pair of penguins who both went foraging or both incubated the eggs at the same time, ‘tit for tat’ would not be enough to evolve the habit of taking turns.”

They explain tit for tat as mates or members of a group imitating each others behavior and usually within a reasonable time frame. The time frame is key, since the tit for tat pay off might not seem to have a benefit if its rewards could not be associated with an initial behavior. Though since there are quite a few variables an animal can encounter over the course of a year – weather, predators, food resources – maybe there is some kind of marginally abstract reasoning going on. If you’re a penguin waiting for your partner to come back so you can take your turn to eat, but your partner doesn’t come back because they fail victim to a shark the whole cooperation thing goes out the window. Do you stay with the egg, which you have a large investment in and starve, or take a chance and go for some food.