Sanders was asked in an interview a month before the debate, "Another part of the equation over here... the Democratic leadership has been talking about what they are saying is an "Oxford Style" debate. What's your reaction to that?" Sanders replied, "I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference whatever it is."
I'm very frustrated, and I think most members of Congress are frustrated, about how little the American people really know as to what's going on in Congress, or, in fact, are knowledgeable about the most important issues facing this country. The corporate-owned mass media, in my view, does a horrendous job. We spend more time with violence and sensationalism and five second soundbites rather than honest debate about the terrible crises facing this country. This country is undergoing major economic decline. Our people are becoming poorer. We're one of two nations in the industrialized world without a nationalized healthcare system. We lead the industrialized world among poverty for our kids, etc, etc, etc. Where is the debate? How did this happen? Who owns America? We're not having that debate. So I think that having some people from the right and some of us who are progressives on the left really clash and talk about the future of America, talk about the problems facing this country, will give the American people the opportunity to hear serious debate.
The first debate as I understand it will be on the single payer healthcare system... believe that the Canadian single payer system is the most cost-effective way to provide comprehensive universal healthcare to all Americans."
The first debate was on healthcare. Physician Jim McDermott and Bernie Sanders represented the single payer point of view. See: Physicians in the United States Congress
"It's a historic accident. We have let it go on. It has brought disaster to our whole healthcare system. We have not only the most expensive healthcare system, we have the most clumsily administered system to work with."
In June 2009, testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by a former health insurance insider named Wendell Potter made news even before it occurred: CBS NEWS headlined: "Cigna Whistleblower to Testify."
After Potter's testimony the industry scrambled to do damage control: "Insurers defend rescissions, take heat for lack of transparency."
"When you're in the executive offices, when you're getting prepared for a call with analysts in the financial media, what you think about are the numbers. You don't think about the people. You think about the numbers and whether or not you're going to hit Wall Street's expectations."
More: KPBS San Diego and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation compare healthcare in the United States and Canada in 2009
Video below: Through Scare Tactics and Lobbying, the American Medical Association, Private Health Insurance Companies, and PhRMA have Campaigned for Profits Over Better Health the last 70 Years
Potter began his trip from health care spokesperson to reform advocate while back home in Tennessee. Potter attended a "health care expedition," a makeshift health clinic set up at a fairgrounds, and he tells Bill Moyers, "It was absolutely stunning. When I walked through the fairground gates, I saw hundreds of people lined up, in the rain. It was raining that day. Lined up, waiting to get care, in animal stalls. Animal stalls."Looking back over his long career, Potter sees an industry corrupted by Wall Street expectations and greed.
According to Potter, insurers have every incentive to deny coverage — every dollar they don't pay out to a claim is a dollar they can add to their profits, and Wall Street investors demand they pay out less every year. Under these conditions, Potter says, "You don't think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you're going to meet Wall Street's expectations."
Mental Health, Addiction, and Drug Policy: Politics and Faux Morals Trump American Health
Identifying Sick U.S. Cultural Institutions that Have Created a Downward Trend in American Health
Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen: The Cost of Foreign Policy That Relies Too Heavily Upon Military and Arms Sales
Renowned Swiss Economist and Investor: Bullish on Bernie
Bernie Sanders is the Best Fix for America's Speedball Economy
Bernie Sanders the Best Candidate to Help Normal Americans Stuck in Neverending Recession
It's the Information Age, Democrats Do Not Need Another Goldman Sachs President
Progressive vs Conservative Roots: Mental Health, Criminal Justice, Drugs, Foreign Policy
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin stated at a recent National Governors' Association Meeting, "And I'm gonna close by this: Our biggest enemy... because, you know... the beautiful comments of Joanne Peterson. I have heard more stories like Joanne's, and so have we all. And you know what we do? We go,
"God, that's just so heart-wrenching. It's just so horrid."
But you know, we're up against some big financial pressures here.
Will Pharma Fraud and Drug Prices Impact the Election?
Failing America: Politicians Lack Courage to Fight Substance Abuse and Improve Mental Health and Drug Policy
The Big Picture: Gov Peter Shumlin Holds FDA, Pharma, Physicians Accountable for RxProblem
You Created "Drug Culture," Not the Drugs
Bernie Sanders Brings the Heat on Healthcare, Pharma, and the FDA
Among the other testimony heard by the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation was that of Robin Beaton. It reflected some of the insurance company tactics condemned by Potter.
It was a nightmare scenario. The day before she was scheduled to undergo a double mastectomy for invasive breast cancer, Robin Beaton's health insurance company informed her that she was "red flagged" and they wouldn't pay for her surgery. The hospital wanted a $30,000 deposit before they would move forward. Beaton had no choice but to forgo the life-saving surgery.
Beaton had dutifully signed up for individual insurance when she retired from nursing to start a small business. She had never missed a payment, but that didn't matter. Blue Cross cited two earlier, unrelated conditions that she hadn't reported to them when signing up — acne and a fast beating heart — and rescinded her policy.
Beaton pleaded with the company and had her doctors write letters on her behalf to no avail. It was not until Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) personally called Blue Cross that her policy was reinstated and she could undergo surgery. In that year, Beaton's tumor doubled in size, leading to further complications necessitating the removal of her lymph glands as well.
Appearing before the same committee, CEOs of the major health insurance companies stated that they would continue to use rescission, arguing that it is a necessary protection against fraud and abuse.
Wendell Potter held a variety of positions at CIGNA Corporation over 15 years, serving most recently as head of corporate communications and as the company's chief corporate spokesman.
Prior to joining CIGNA, Potter headed communications at Humana Inc., another large for-profit health insurer and was director of public relations and advertising for The Baptist Health System of East Tennessee. He also has been a partner in an Atlanta public relations firm, a press secretary to a Democratic nominee for governor of Tennessee and a lobbyist in Washington for the organizers of the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn.
Wendell Potter is a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he received a B.A. degree in communications and did postgraduate work in journalism and public relations. He holds an APR, which means he is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America, and is still a dues-paying member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club in Washington.
Potter's latest book is titled Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It.
Potter Details How the Insurance Industry Attacked Michael Moore's healthcare documentary, 'SiCKO'
U.S. government refuses to fund research into the therapeutic potential of serotonin 2a receptor agonists psilocybin and ayahuasca, despite their promise in treating addiction, depression, and other difficult-to-treat mental disorders. More: Psilocybin's Potential Impact on Mental Health and Neuroscience Research