Former health insurance executive: Current system is bankrupting country

Wendell Potter, a former health care executive, warned Monday that if the United States doesn’t shift towards a “Medicare for All” system as put forth by progressive Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee Trump campaign plays up Biden's skills ahead of Cleveland debate: 'He's actually quite good' Young voters backing Biden by 2:1 margin: poll MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJudd Gregg: The Kamala threat — the Californiaization of America GOP set to release controversial Biden report Biden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? MORE (D-Mass.), the country could face serious financial trouble.

“If we don’t change and move to Medicare for All, we’re all going to be facing medical bankruptcy,” said Potter, who now advocates for moving towards a single-payer, government-run system.

Before becoming a Medicare for All advocate, Potter spent more than 20 years in the health insurance industry, serving as vice president corporate communications at Cigna and director of communications at Humana.

Since leaving the industry, he has argued that the main reason the federal government spends so much on health care is due to the inefficiency of having a multi-payer system, which he says makes it difficult to control health care costs.

“When you have a large number of insurance companies in a given market as we typically do, none of them are big enough to really negotiate in an effective way,” Wendall said. “That is the basic reason why we can’t control health care costs.”

Health care has become a leading point of contention in the Democratic presidential primary race. While all White House hopefuls want to improve the current system, they all have varying ideas of how to get there.

While some Democratic contenders have favored Medicare for All, others have proposed protecting and expanding the existing health care system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden looks to expand election battleground into Trump country Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report MORE, a leading Democratic contender, has argued for strengthening the ACA by adding an optional government-run plan that would allow people to keep their private insurance, which would otherwise be eliminated under a Medicare for All System.

This public option approach has also been touted by other moderate candidates like former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq MORE.

Like Biden, Buttigieg has taken aim at Medicare for all plans favored by Warren and Sanders, particularly over how much it would cost taxpayers. Though Warren and Sanders argue that such a shift would save people in the long run, the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that Medicare for All would cost the federal government about $32 trillion over the course of 10 years.

However, Wendall maintained that a public option plan would not ultimately “get us where we need to be,” arguing that the fundamental problem with the current health care system isn’t about access, but rather about cost.

“We all theoretically in this country have access to health care, so that’s not the main issue,” he said. “It’s that we can’t afford it — even those of us who have health insurance can’t afford to get the care that we need.”

—Tess Bonn