By Sandy Belknap
For the past two weeks, I've been thinking about the the national debate about Healthcare Reform and have been trying to figure out a good angle for a compelling blog entry.
I realized today that I've been over-thinking this topic. It all comes down for the need for 'change' and whether we want to believe it or not, change is hard. Whether the debate is Healthcare Reform, the legal definition of marriage, the plan for the end of the Iraq war or any other number of topics headlining in the news today, the items related to things that will require 'change' in our behaviors and lifestyles are the toughest.
Throughout the 2008 Presidential Campaign, we kept hearing about change from both parties but there was never any discussion about how difficult any change would be to accomplish. Well, we are seeing now that change is a constant challenge with the ongoing discussion about Heathcare Reform, especially with President Obama's speech on the topic last week. Unfortunately, the ongoing discussion is bringing about a level of incivility that makes it uneasy to even bring up the topic with friends and family to get a read on where people truly stand on the issue.
Nonetheless, I've been asking my friends and professional contacts who are in the Nashua area for their 2 cents on the topic (all in the name to be able to provide insight for this Patchwork Nation blog!) I've talked to my friends that are small business owners and colleagues who are in the process of job searches. I've also talked to friends who have really good corporate insurance plans.
Here's a snapshot of the recurrent themes of what I've heard over the past two weeks:
- "I don't understand what the reform bill will include. It's good to hear that it will offer a choice, but it's hard to know if that's good or bad because I haven't read the entire bill. I don't even know where I could find it if I wanted to read it!"
- "Insurance costs are killing my small business. I would like to have more choice for my employees, but don't want to be stuck with more taxes on other things to make up for the savings I think we may be getting."
- "I know that my corporate job is insecure and I'd like to start my own business, but the costs tied to healthcare are a major concern and I think I may be better off just staying where I am or start a job search to go to another company with good benefits."
- "While I feel secure in my current job, there's talk of my company changing our benefits package and we won't see the impact of this until we start our annual enrollment process in October. I'm sure that there will be cuts to what is currently offered, but I have no idea what they are yet."
In a nutshell, I've concluded that a lot of the concern and skepticism are tied to the lack of awareness about the reform plan and what it means to the average citizen.
The President's speech last week attempted to share what the package is and is not. However, the media awareness of the speech has primarily focused ever since on partisan bickering around the "You Lie" comment blurted out during the middle of the speech.
So, here's what the average citizen needs as this debate goes on so that some kind of reform can actually take place:
1) A simple reform plan explanation for the average citizen to read and understand the plan. There are all kinds of "...for Dummy" books out there. Use that format to clearly explain the plan and call it "Healthcare Reform for the Average American." Too many people would be offended if called "Healthcare Reform for Dummies")
2) Admission from our country's leaders that this kind of change is really hard stuff! Ask the American people for help. Bring representatives and their constituents from both parties together to talk about the challenging issues and work together to resolve them. Some of the smartest people in the world are in this country and we should use these people/experts to map out the future state of what healthcare in America should be and consist of - including the specifics.
3) Immediate action to address any"low hanging fruit" now so that people can see progress and feel engaged with success. If things don't start to move forward in a positive manner, this debate will continue well into the next decade. And that's not good whether one has healthcare insurance or not.
If there's one thing that I've learned during the past two decades as a communications professional, it's that people want to be told the truth and be treated like adults. They may not always like the message, but if they are told the truth, the message is at least a little more tolerable. And in the case of healthcare reform, the truth is that change is hard.