Former insurance executive: 'Medicare for all' would eliminate jobs that are 'not needed'

A former insurance executive is pushing back against the notion that implementing a “Medicare for All” system would be detrimental to the health care industry as a whole.

Wendall Potter, a former vice president for corporate communications at Cigna, argued Thursday that many of the jobs that would be potentially eliminated under the program aren’t necessary in the first place, and in some cases, act as a barrier when it comes to getting access to medical care.

“Insurance companies employ people like me — like I used to be — to wage propaganda campaigns,” Potter, who now advocates for Medicare for All, told Hill.TV on Thursday. “They employ large sales and marketing teams and employ legions of underwriters and doctors and nurses who are there primarily to say ‘no’ to us and our doctors when we need treatment.”

“Those kinds of functions are not needed — no other country has a mechanism [as] we have,” he added.

Nearly 386,000 people were employed by health insurance companies in 2018 alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But some economists estimate that as many as 2 million jobs could be eliminated if the country shifts to a government-run system that would eliminate private insurance.

While Potter acknowledged this estimated job loss, he maintained that these health care workers could be retrained, adding that a Medicare for all program could also help “unleash a new era of entrepreneurship.”

“Small businesses in this country are really disadvantaged because of our current system,” Potter told Hill.TV. “More and more of them cannot offer benefits, so they are having a hard time finding workers and retraining them.”

Potter has expressed support for Medicare for all plans put forth by progressive Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill The Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Fox's Ingraham mocks DNC over Nevada voting malfunctions: 'Are we a Third World country?' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada Bloomberg to do interview with Al Sharpton MORE (D-Mass.), noting that the pair are both “staunch advocates of getting to Medicare for All as soon as possible.” Sanders has stated that under his own version of the plan, he would implement a five-year transition that would provide income, health coverage and job training for people who lost their jobs in the insurance industry as a result of the elimination of private insurance. 

Medicare for all remains an animating issue in the Democratic primary race.

During Tuesday's Democratic debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen At Democratic debate, missed opportunities on immigration Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada MORE sparred over the costs associated with their health care proposals. 

According to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, shifting to Medicare for all that would cover every American and replace private insurers would cost roughly $30 trillion over the next 10 years.

Warren argued that Buttigieg's public option plan, which is projected to cost $1.5 trillion over a decade, only costs less because it's only a "small improvement" over the current system.

— Tess Bonn