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A health care 'Judas' recounts his conversion
A clinic such as this, where countless uninsured line up at dawn for free medical care, convinced one man to quit his Cigna job.
June 27th, 2012
01:46 PM ET

A health care 'Judas' recounts his conversion

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - When Wendell Potter first saw them, he froze.

“It felt like touching an electrical fence,” he says. “I remember tearing up and thinking, how could this be real.”

Thousands of them had lined up under a cloudy sky in an open field. Many had camped out the night before. When their turns came, doctors treated them in animal stalls and on gurneys placed on rain-soaked sidewalks.

They were Americans who needed basic medical care. Potter had driven to the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia in July 2007 after reading that a group called Remote Area Medical, which flew American doctors to remote Third World villages, was hosting a free outdoor clinic.

Potter, a Cigna health care executive who ate from gold-rimmed silverware in corporate jets, says that morning was his “Road to Damascus” experience.

“It looked like a refugee camp,” Potter says. “It just hit me like a bolt of lightning. What I was doing for a living was making it necessary for people to resort to getting care in animal stalls.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is a colossal legal and political issue. For Potter, though, the issue became a crisis of faith.

For the last three years, Potter has been one of the most visible supporters of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation. He has testified before Congress, appeared on countless talk shows and written a tell-all book on the health care industry called "Deadly Spin." With his Southern drawl and mild professorial manner, he has been described as a health care industry “Judas” in some media accounts.

Yet none of the media coverage of Potter has explored what drove his conversion - his faith. Potter was raised as a Southern Baptist in Kingsport, Tennessee, where he says his parents instilled in him an appreciation for helping others.

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He says the New Testament is filled with Jesus providing universal health care - he healed the poor and outcast.

“Christians needed to be reminded of what Jesus did,” Potter says.  “It was important to him for people to have access to healing care. That’s what he did. A lot of people of faith lose sight of that.”

A health care hit man

Potter says he lost sight of that because the health care issue was an abstraction to him when he worked at Cigna as a public relations executive. Part of his job was to snuff out stories in the media that made the health care industry look bad.

But his visit to that free clinic in Virginia that July morning shook him. In a column that he wrote for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization, where he works as a senior analyst, he wrote:

“Until that day, I had been able to think, talk and write about the U.S. health care system and the uninsured in the abstract, as if real-life human beings were not involved.”

Yet even after that visit to the clinic, Potter says, he still stayed with his Cigna job. He had a son and a daughter, a six-figure salary, bonuses.  He felt trapped even as he resumed his job.

“It was always gnawing at me,” he says of the experience at the clinic.

There was another reason he couldn’t leave his job.  It was his identity.

Wendell Potter was moved by his faith to quit his Cigna job.

“Our egos are tied to our jobs even if the jobs we’re doing are not what we thought we were going to be doing,” he says. “Our jobs, to a certain extent, help define who we are.”

Potter found a new source of identity - his faith. He read the Bible and found particular solace in the New Testament book of Philippians, where the Apostle Paul advises Christians to “cast all their anxiety” on God. He also read “Profiles in Courage” to fortify his resolve.

He finally quit, and eventually became one of the most visible advocates for health care reform.

“I felt that if I were on my death bed and looked back on my life and realized that I had not taken this risk to do the right thing, I would have huge regrets,” he says.

Why churches are silent

Potter now spends some of his time talking to churches. He says an estimated 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have insurance that provides them access to the care they need.

“This doesn’t happen in any other developed country in the world, and it should not happen here, the richest nation on the planet,” he says.

When he takes this message to churches, some shut their doors, he says. They don’t want to hear him. Pastors know the debate over health care divides their congregations.

“A lot of pastors are just too afraid to get involved in this and step up and say this is a moral issue,” he says. “They’re afraid of offending their parishioners.”

Some of Potter’s most consistent supporters, though, are former colleagues in the health care industry.  "I've had calls and emails from people I used to work with in the industry who thank me quietly," he says.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, Potter says health care changes are inevitable. The current system of for-profit health insurance companies is not sustainable. He says some Americans dismiss the uninsured, but they don’t realize how close they are to joining them.

He says many of the people who attended the Remote Area Medical clinic were working people. Their jobs simply didn’t provide enough good medical care. While many companies provide health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, most people with these maladies wouldn’t get coverage if they suddenly lost their job.

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“Most of us are just a layoff from losing it,” he says of health insurance.

Potter can’t guess what the Supreme Court will decide, but he has predicted what the United States will look like if the health care law is struck down.

We’ve already seen that future in a book and movie called “The Hunger Games," he wrote in a recent column.

"The Hunger Games" depicts a future America renamed Panem, where the government is disconnected from the people who struggle every day for basic needs such as medical care while the wealthy have access to modern medicine, he wrote.

“This society-gone-bad scenario of denying basic care to citizens based on their income or social status seems on the big screen not only cruel and unusual but even incomprehensible,” he wrote. “In fact, it’s occurring every day in what is still called the United States.”

Potter didn’t have to see that future on the screen. He’d already seen it in Virginia, where doctors cared for Americans in animal stalls.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Faith & Health • Health • Health care

soundoff (1,958 Responses)
  1. Ryan

    There are actually very few people in this country who can't actually afford health insurance premiums, and most of them are taken care of by medicaid. It's a priorities issue. Would you rather buy a $250 I-Phone and pay $100 a month to use it, or would you rather put that money toward insurance. Would you rather have a flat-screen television with a PS3 so you can game all day when you should be looking for a better paying job? Or would you rather put that money towards your health insurance? Very few people can't afford coverage, especially catastrophic coverage. Raise your deductible and get some coverage. Most people are simply ignorant of their options.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Craig

      Sadly your post repeats the lies that the health care industry likes to believe. If you lose your job...and I might point out that in the last few years a bunch of people have...and you're not old enough to retire, you don't have coverage. When your meals come from the local food bank, and you have a non-contract phone that costs just $30 per month...and you only have it so you have a number for a potential employer to call...when you can barely afford to buy enough gas to go to an interview, when buying that gas means you don't eat dinner tonight...then it's not a question of priorities. You're just plain out of touch...as this man was.

      Don't talk about deductibles, because they don't pay for the medications you should be taking continually...for hypertension and other things. When the best plan you can find, with incredibly high deductibles will take more than one half of your monthly income, and still won't pay for the meds you need or even a simple office visit, then...well, when that's where you are perhaps you'll understand. I doubt it...but it's possible. After all, this man finally figured it out.

      In short, you KNOW NOTHING! When you have cancer, and you lose your coverage, and you find a new job...but the new carrier says "Nope. Pre-existing condition" then come back and post again. Until then, shut up...because you simply have no idea what the rest of us face. For the record, everything I've mentioned applies to me...but I know you don't want to hear about that. I conflicts with your lies that you like to believe.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Russ

      My wife's mom couldn't get insurance at any price. Pre-existing condition. Only got insured when she became eligible for Medicare. Yes, that Govt insurance plan. Even with that, it costs >$500/mo for prescriptions. You must have a company paid insurance plan, are single and under 50.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • hmm

      I suspect this guy is getting paid to post lies.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  2. Colorado

    Help folks by all means, but that shouldn't require such a massive takeover of the US economy. My insurance is fine, and I'd like to be left alone.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • hmm

      So basically, you're fine so screw everyone else, right? Unless you live on a desert island, you live in a society. You say you want to help people....this is the way. If everyone doesn't chip in, it won't work! You say you like your insurance...do you know your premiums will most likely go down b/c of the Affordable Health Care act?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  3. Peter Wolfe

    WeALLMustWORK and others,

    I'm legally blind e.g. lhon with ssi that my family owning three different businesses and a uncle being a millionaire help pay for. There are lots of things that my family paid for that we hate and never agreed to but you don't see us complaining about supposed "lazy" people like me. We didn't agree to your Bush wars, tax cuts for the 2001-2003 years, etc on ther other side of the fence either. It is true that there is fraud out there especially with ssdi but would you rather live in a third world country like The Bahamas? Honestly I've been there as a college present for which I'm about to start to work and they appear to demonize the disabled and claim generalizations like quadraplegic can work and so can you? No, it isn't that simple like 75% of all blind people are unemployed and no regulation and technology being lip service to accommedations from Microsoft, wipo conferences, Amazon Fire, etc that don't give a crap about us.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  4. WAKE UP

    Let me first say that more people need to really snap out of there lulled state of stupid and get a real life, real world understanding, most of the U.S population is under or uninsured mostly working class and children..With that being said all of those working people that have healthcare via an employer paid benefit are truly a job loss away from being with out affordable healthcare insurance. It is unfortunate that americans do not support a law that would unsure that each american could recieve medical serivce if needed.I true sign of the of a decline of society, when it turns it back on itself. VERY SAD

    June 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • louis

      you don't know crap about health care, simpleton! who's going to pay for all the doctor visits, medical supplies, hospital utility bills that this universal health care is going to ring up? Should the doctors and nurses be forced to work for free? Maybe all the Christian good will garnered from treating people for free will pay back the almost 200k in debt that a doctor graduates with? Typical liberal with pie in the sky ideas and no practical solutions. F99cking moron

      June 27, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • hmm

      louis...it's obvious you are the one with no understanding of universal healthcare. Everyone pays into it. That's how it gets paid for. Get it?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  5. Bibletruth

    Interesting comments... Jesus put the rightousness that is imputed ( forgiveness of sin) and implanted (the mind of Christ via the Holy Spirit) at conversion in terms of divine love...basically stop sinning and do all within your influence to better humanity.....and that by no means means enabling destructive behavior, fraud, or economic suicide......but i believe it does include giving the benefit of the doubt to all since we cant read a mind.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  6. SAWolf

    The picture says it ALL. Lifestyle will ki11 you.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Oda

      Do you have ANY idea how expensive it is to eat healthy here?! People are encouraged to eat unhealthy here in the US because that food is more affordable! This is particularly true for low income families!! Personally I think GMO foods will eventually kill most Americans.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Ryan

      Exactly. Plus they appear to be illegal immigrants. But who cares, right? This country is going down the tubes. The reason the average per family income is dropping is because the IQ of the American population is dropping due to the influx of idiots from Mexico and inner city blacks who refuse to quit acting like children and stop blaming the white man for everything. I don't feel sorry for them.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • hmm

      Wow, Ryan! Are you psychic?? How exactly does someone "appear" to be an illegal immigrant? Ass.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • hmm

      Oda...I don't buy that (no pun intended). It's actually quite cheap to buy some veggies, beans, and rice. I've pretty much obsessed w. eating healthy and I don't make a whole lot of money. Now whether the person has ACCESS to the healthy food is another matter altogether...however, w. the percentage of obese people in this country now, there is NO that most of them don't have access to healthy food. I call shenanigans.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  7. Billy Whyde

    This comment is advocating violence.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Jeorge

    Well, just imagine how much it will cost when the 35 millions illegals get medical, just so they can help the democrats get elected. When Obumocare is passed the end is upon us. The flood gates will be open, amnesty will be rushed in so everyone on earth can vote in the US and get free medical.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • quest

      @jeorge, man Canada, Europe and Asia must have one heck of a problem fighting off illegal immigrants trying to get to their open health care system.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • hmm

      Hey genius and or liar, it's not free. You have to pay into it.
      Another paid poster, I believe.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  9. mark

    i guarantee the person in that picture pays more for donuts then they do health insurance.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Laurel

      Try finding one organic item in a grocery store. Food is waxed, processed, preserved, colorized etc., all for the consuming public. Additives in our food for the last 6 decades are now pinpointed as triggers for the rise in asthma, obesity, and other health disorders. Often the cheapest food is the worst food, high in starch, fat, and carbohydrates. Processed food is WAY cheaper than organic. Don't think so? Check out your local grocery store. So who do you blame?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • hmm

      Mark...while I do think people should take accountability if they are overweight from overeating (sorry, have to disagree w. the poster under you. I live on very little money and manage to buy healthy food), you have no proof that this person is obese b/c of that. It's quite possible there is actually a medical condition involved.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  10. K Bohannon

    Mr Potter, don't expect forgiveness quite yet. Whenever people ask me about Cigna, I cheerfully tell them that it was your company that killed my father.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  11. mark

    people need to have some accountability for their own health. These morbidly obese people with diabetes, hypertension and coronary disease think that healthcare should be free and they should have no financial responsibility for their awful lifestyle choices.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • healthare worker

      Mark, you like many other uninformed people do not understand that some of these people are obese because of medical conditions in which they have no control over. Mark, should you ever get cancer for instance and use up your lifetime limit on your insurance, and are unable to get any other insurance company to cover you because of your pre-existing condition, I am sure you would want help, and not some selfish person that thinks you need to be responsible for your own healthcare.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • hmm

      So if they can't afford care they should just die, then? Nice.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  12. The Rest Of The World

    THAT was the one other stat I forgot but absolutely thought was perfect. The US spends BY FAR the highest percentage and most amount of money per capita from GDP than ANY OTHER country in the world on health care. More than Canada, more than Britian, France etc....yet you lag soooooooo far behind in quality of care and Quality of Life stats its absurd.....and I love it when salt of the earth midwesterner's, usually Repulican, say "dont touch my health care"......man the one's you support, the big corporate loving Repulicans along with their good friends, the Insurnace Industry are laughing their asses off at your blind support.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  13. Love Bug

    When Jesus healed the sick he didn't ask them what insurance they had, nor did he collect copays. Yet many of those who claim to follow his teachings willingly support politicians whose actions and beliefs are diametrically opposed to those teachings. So which is it, God or mammon? No man can serve two masters.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      If we could heal by a magic wave of the hand or wiggle of the nose, maybe we wouldn't have to charge much either.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  14. Hollybush 123

    As a canadian I wish all Americans could have the standard of healthcare that ordinary citizens here enjoy. I hope Obama brings it for you.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • SAWolf

      You mean like wait in a queue till you die?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • Waileka1

      Canadian-level 'healthcare'... my sister is canadian... she spent six weeks living in the hospital waiting for a gallbladder surgery... which she eventually had at 2:30 am her time... then she spent another three weeks in the hospital getting free of the addiction she acquired to morphine while waiting for the surgery. She has an eight-inch long scar for a GALLBLADDER surgery.. it should have been about one half an inch long. That's the 'care' you get in canada. YOU are living in a socialist country similar to all of europe... you aren't citizens you are subjects. So canadian shut the f up about the USA; you don't live here and you are NOT a citizen, so MYOB... obuma is the worst president we have ever had even considering the two living low lives: carter and clintslime.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Me

      SAWolf, you're an idiot, much like Sarah Palin and her "death panels". The bum on the street gets the same great healthcare that a bank CEO does here. I had appendicitis, got all my tests, was operated on laparascopically within 12 hours, sent home the next day with painkillers I didn't have to pay for, had a follow up appointment with my surgeon a few weeks later, and never saw a bill. I got immediate care when I needed it, and so does everyone else. You may have to wait a few months for something that's not life threatening but a quality of life issue such as a hip replacement, but that's so that everyone who had a heart attack can have the emergency surgery they need, or cancer treatment immediately upon diagnosis. Try getting some facts before spewing bs about the Canadian healthcare system, you troll.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Me

      SAWolf, you're an idiot, much like Sarah Palin and her "death panels". The bum on the street gets the same great healthcare that a bank CEO does here. I had appendicitis, got all my tests, was operated on laparascopically within 12 hours, sent home the next day with painkillers I didn't have to pay for, had a follow up appointment with my surgeon a few weeks later, and never saw a bill. I got immediate care when I needed it, and so does everyone else. You may have to wait a few months for something that's not life threatening but a quality of life issue such as a hip replacement, but that's so that everyone who had a heart attack can have the emergency surgery they need, or cancer treatment immediately upon diagnosis. Try getting some facts before spewing bs about the Canadian healthcare system, you trolll.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • hmm

      I see the paid anti-Healthcare law posters are out in full force...
      Is the socialized healthcare in other countries perfect? Of course not. What system is?
      But these horror stories are ridiculous.
      I know people from Canada AND from Australia and they think we are absolutely INSANE for having a FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. If their system is so horrible, why do they still have it? No one should ever go broke trying to pay for their own healthcare. That's stupid.
      Btw, they have socialized medicine...that doesn't make them a socialist country. Two entirely different things. But you know that already, paid poster.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  15. Bigmac

    Those aren't Americans in the photo.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • grahamer rhodes

      Dream On

      June 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Errogant2

      Cite your source for that information please.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • quest

      Right, they are USA citizens.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • wes

      Of course not. They are Virginians.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  16. Oda

    I have no health insurance because my Ex canceled it unlawfully when I moved out . After 27 years, I got tired of his double standards and his girllfriend at the time and I cannot afford it – it is simply too expensive for me especially considering all those attorney fees I now also have to pay. He was ordered last July to reinstate my health insurance and he just ignores it. We could go after him for that but this means more legal fees I cannot afford and then still no gurantee that he would comply. This system is so broken and can only self destruct and the legal system could also use an overhaul. There are not enough consequences in place.
    If other countries can provide effective care, so can the US – we only fail because we now have a bunch of kindergarteners as politicians who behave like spoiled children. Seriously, grow up and do what's right. I can be very conservative, but I can also be very liberal. It totally depends on the situation I am dealing with and what the best approach is. It is simpkly a falacy to be just one or the other!

    June 27, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Jeorge

      Know what your talking about, just on the other side. Talking about healthcare it not about health, politicians could care less. They want to be re-elected! They would sell this country if it meant staying in power. So they allow illegals in the US (see the pictures of illegals above) protect them to stay, now with 35 millions illegals voting for democrats so they can get free medical to.... how much do you want to pay – all the money you make cannot pay the worlds healthcare. Now think about why should they be able to vote, will Russians vote? how about those in Iraq voting for US politicians?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  17. Fools, many are...

    Funny thing about this debate. YOU are ALREADY paying for healthcare for others. The Obama plan, while no where near good, makes more sense than what we are doing now....

    Who do you think pays the hospital bill now when someone uninsured comes in with a heart attack? YOU do. Taxes paid to the government, which is turned over to the hospital for charity care, keeps hospitals OPEN. The very imperfect Obama plan at least makes everyone pay something. Its the better of the really bad plans, as ugly as it is. One bright spot? Pre-existing conditions DO NOT GET TURNED TO THE STREET for YOU to PAY FOR IT.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Mike

      Pre-existing conditions do get turned to the street. Emergency clinics are only required to stabilize people – they do not have to provide preventative services such as medication.

      Did you get diagnosed with breast cancer? Sorry. Our ER wont provide a mastectomy for you.
      Did you lose a finger? We'll sew it up but we wont sew it back on. Oh you need it for work? Sorry about that.
      Do you have diabetes? Sorry. No cash, no insulin.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  18. lionelhutz

    If free health care is so great, and the countries that have it so wonderful, why aren't all the immigrants headed to Canada? If things suck so bad in America, free healthcare is just a short drive north.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • grahamer rhodes

      Because the simple truth is people still believe in the Hollywood Myth that all the roads in the USA are paved with gold. Anyway we don't let people in like you lot do.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • GTA

      It's universal healthcare, not free.
      Not all of the immigrants are headed to Canada, just many of them. Just like the U.S.

      It all boils down to a value judgement. That is, whether to pay higher taxes to ensure that everyone has access to quality healthcare, or whether to pay lower taxes and risk that some citizens will suffer and/or die for the lack of it.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Gluevet

      much tougher to immigrate to Canada than the US

      June 27, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • dede

      A lot of Americans do head to Canada for health care, especially those that live near the border. And alot of senior citizens take bus rides up there, to get their prescriptions filled, because brand name drugs are alot more affordable, in Canada. You can love your country and work to change it for the better at the same time. That's part of what makes this country great, compassion for your fellow man and looking after your neighbors and community.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • Acam

      Anyone who has been to Vancouver or Toronto...or knew anything about canada would know immigrants go to Canada in droves. In fact, if you bothered looking at statistics you would know that Canada's net migration rate is higher than the US's. Canada: 5.65 migrants per 1000 people (13th in the world). US: 4.18 migrants per 1000(rank 21st)

      June 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • hmm

      I used to live in Buffalo, NY. Trust me when I say this: plenty of people crossed to the border to get Canadian healthcare. There were billboards up all over the place advertizing cheap laser eye surgery.
      I honestly believe a lot of comments like these are fake. Someone being paid to post.

      June 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  19. WeALLMustWORK

    They problem is not health care. The problem is people have lost their work ethic. I am all for helping everyone. But more and more people think since they have a health "issue", they are "disabled". We all need to contribute and work, then health care for everyone would work. In reality it's too easy for people to go on SSI or disability, not contribute, and then they are a perpetual cost liability to the rest of us. I'd love to stop working myself, most of the time I feel like crap (on four medications for various reasons), but I'll choose to work, Thank You. I could right now go on disability but if the meds keep me going, I'll keep on truckin'...

    June 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • kate

      Unfortunately, you are wrong. It isn't "easy" to get on SSI or SSD In fact, the program is set up so that people hit rock bottom before they every qualify. To qualify, you must first have a severe, medically determinable impairment which has lasted 12 months, or is expected to last 12 months (the latter being a terminal illness or catastrophic illness). Next, you cannot be engaging in Substantial Gainful Activity – that means you cannot have gross income over $1100 a month. Then you have to prove (if you are under the age of 50), that your "residual functional capacity" is so low that you cannot even do basic, sit down, unskilled, sedentary jobs. If you pass that hurdle, then you have to prove that your "residual funcitonal capacity" prevents you from doing your past work. Once that is proven, then you have to prove there are no jobs that exist in substantial numbers in the national economy that you could perform.

      The majority of people who file have to have a hearing before a judge – really it is a trial, with expert witnesses, attorneys, lay witnesses, etc. The judge then decides. From that, the numbers vary, but the national average for approval is about 60%. And, do to some "outlier" situations recently exposed in the media, the judges are getting pressured to disapprove even more claims – pick them over with a fine tooth comb.

      The majority of claimants have a high school education or less, did work at some point (usually in a factor), lost their job (and benefits) when the factory closed, and then found themselves in the predicament of choosing between food and shelter and medication/healthcare. Food and shelter usually wins. If they are lucky enough to live in a community with a health department, they get their basic primary care needs met. However, if they have a chronic disease, like diabetes, heart disease, etc., they usually cannot afford specialized care. Most do not have "medicaid", as most states have cut the programs back to the bare minimum and very few qualify (exception being children and the elderly). Eventually, the chronic disease becomes a deadly disease. By the time they reach a judge, the diabetes is so bad that they are losing vision or losing feeling in their feet/hands (neuropathy)....the cardiac problems are so bad that they can barely walk, much less complete a 40 hour work week....and the mentally ill are often one step away from catastrophe.

      I'm on the front line and I can promise you that 99^% of the people I see every day would rather be working and would rather be in your situation.

      However, as long as our country continues to throw money at the back end (i.e. benefits once someone gets to the point described above), we will never get out of the cycle.. The solution? Mandatory high school educations, followed by tracks to either technical school, vocational school, military or college. Education is the key – our work force needs to be re-directed and retrained. once those goals are achieved, they will get jobs. With the jobs will come benefits, and with the benefits come affordable, decent (hopefully) health care.

      Until then, the cycle will continue. However, don't assume that everyone on benefits is a slacker. Most of them are people just like you – they had a job and could afford the meds, but life dealt them a blow.

      Oh and the judges – can smell a scam a mile away. It really isn't the "sign up and draw" system that some in the media and some politicians would like for you to believe.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Mike

      A friend of mine just tried to commit suicide, twice. The state still wont declare her disabled. She lost her job and her health insurance with it. She wants treatment but can't afford an inpatient facility. County advisors have told her to go to the ER and get a 5150 evaluation and tell the doctors about her suicide attempts. The county advisors have also told her that she will not be able to afford the county inpatient facility and that her only option is treatment followed by bankruptcy.

      The best part of this? She was fully insured 6 months ago. F- you doesn't cover it.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Cardiac50

      Really.. "too easy". have you ever argued a case in front of an Administrative Law Judge?,, I suggest you argue a few hundred.. or even simply read the records and prepare the cases then come back and tell us how it's all the easy and most don't deserve it.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • hmm

      Well, I'm not too sure how difficult it is to get SSI or Disability. I know two people off the top of my head who are on both and are 100% healthy. The first faked schizophrenia...she not only has SSI and Disability, but also lives in a gov't funded apartment. The second has some sort of back "injury" or something...last time I saw him he was climbing up a tree to cut down branches.
      Yeah....

      June 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  20. Will

    I can't wait for the US to collapse Yugoslavia style so I can join the Northern Militia, head south, and slaughter some red necks and tea baggers.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • i12bphil

      How on earth will you do that when the other side will have all the guns?

      June 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Waileka1

      Come to Texas, we'll be waitin' for yall, and we have been armed and trained up in use of our guns for all our lives... no need for us to 'join a militia', you fool.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.