Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hope for Health Care (copyright pending)

After reading this article from Time that was called to my attention by reporter Tim Fernholz, my thoughts went something like this:

  1. How could so many people be so far out of touch with reality? The unsustainability of the current health care system has been around so long that it should be a truism by now. President Obama gave a fact-filled speech about it recently. Beyond just the swelling ranks of the uninsured, more people, insured as well as uninsured, are driven to bankruptcy by health care costs than ever were by toxic mortgages.
  2. Denial rears its ugly head again. People want to believe everything is ok until they are forced to admit it's not. It's human nature. It's the root of the self-help industry. It's hard to believe is what it is, but apparently denial has been stronger than the evidence so far.
  3. If ordinary reporting doesn't get through people's denial, what will? What is a recent example of something that gets people out of their seats and motivates them to take action?
Answer: the Haiti telethon.

The Haiti telethon raised $25 million and counting, all for a problem that didn't exist a month ago. Of course the earthquake in Haiti is an unusually big problem, but telethons also exist for individual diseases. Isn't national health care as worthy a cause as any individual disease? I think it is.

The telethon format is also a good match for communicating the health care problem.
There are great personal stories out there of both health and financial loss. Story after story after story will kill any notion that these are isolated incidents, plants, or extreme cases. It draws people into telethons, charities, and reality TV.

These personal stories can be interwoven with charts and facts presented by celebrities, plus star performances, all with the urgent appeal to take action to prevent these conditions from continuing.

Obviously we want Congress to fix health care, but what action do we want people watching the telethon to take? It's great to raise money for free clinics, but that's only a temporary solution. Do we want people to flood Congressional switchboards with calls? Marching on Washington is impractical, especially for the infirm and unemployed, plus it's so....teabaggy. People hate writing letters--the action needs to be something easier and more quickly accomplished.

I admit I'm a little fuzzy here. What should people do? Calling Congress seems like the best solution, but I doubt Congress is as ready to handle a flood of calls as...say...American Idol.

And anyway, it's not what people do in the short term that is important. It's that they need to understand, at a minimum, that 1) the current health care system is unsustainable; 2) it's on course to wreck our whole economy; and 3) we don't have a lot of time to fix it before it's too late.

I'm only half-joking about the telethon, but entertainment has proven itself as a way to get people's attention and burn things into their brains. Why not use that power for good? I memorized the preamble to the Constitution back in 8th grade thanks to Schoolhouse Rock. Why not write a filk about universal health care? Well, why not?

Let's toss out the box, people. We need to find new ways to educate the population that they will understand and remember. What we've been doing so far hasn't worked.

Anybody got a rhyme for "preexisting condition?"

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