The moment I realized I was part of the problem was during a day trip to a small town in Virginia. I came face to face with hundreds of people, most of them soaking wet, standing in lines that stretched out of view. These people were waiting to get medical care in animal stalls. That was the day I made a personal commitment to change my life – and to change the status quo.
I was not in a third world country. I was at the Wise County fairgrounds, at a makeshift health clinic a few miles from where I grew up in East Tennessee. That day I had an awakening. I realized that I was being paid – and paid quite well – to perpetuate a dysfunctional health care system. The folks in those long lines could have been people I knew, people I grew up with. People in my own family.
At that time, I was head of corporate communications for one of the country’s biggest health insurance companies. I carried out PR initiatives that would help my company achieve its main objective: enhancing shareholder value. I vowed that day that I would find a more honest way to earn a living. I left my job a few months later, and began exposing the practices of an industry that had resulted in 50 million Americans being forced into the ranks of the uninsured. I testified several times before Congress, telling lawmakers how health insurers “confuse their customers and dump the sick – all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.”
I went on to write a New York Times best seller, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. My new book, Nation on the Take How Big Money Corrupts Democracy and What We Can Do About It, which I wrote with Nick Penniman of Issue One, exposes the legalized corruption that defines the U.S. political system and links it to the kitchen-table issues citizens face every day.
I’ve also given countless speeches and written hundreds of columns to explain how average Americans are affected by cronyism and corruption in both government and business. I’ve also been a frequent guest on numerous TV and radio shows and have written for or been the subject of articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, The Nation, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and many other media outlets.
You can find more information about me here.