Thoughts on Life: If I Was Selling Health Care Reform

We all laugh at the tourists who can’t speak the local language, so they speak slowly and loudly in English in order to be understood. Failing in that attempt, they decide to speak more slowly and loudly, which is absolutely foolproof, as we all know.

I see the same approach in the endless lobbying for health care reform by the Obama administration. It’s a classic case of bad marketing. Ineffective messages fail to convince, so the volume and frequency are increased, as if the audience didn’t get it the first 500 times. Perhaps people get the messages, but the messages aren’t compelling.

For example, most people in the United States have health insurance and most of them are relatively happy with it. There are gripes and problems, but it’s the devil they know. Yeah, it costs too much and there are too many exclusions, but it could be a lot worse and, in fact, they fear that any change could make things MUCH worse. They know the United States is the only major nation without universal health care and they might believe people in other countries are well served by their systems, but that’s not a compelling reason to give up what they have today.

And most people don’t really care that much about changing the system to give a benefit to poor people. Sorry, but that’s the way it is, especially in an era of economic weakness and fearful outlooks and a talk-radio industry that profits mightily from citizen revolt.

It’s not about facts, of course. Health care is rationed today, but it’s rationed by the private sector. Insurance company executives make huge salaries, but cutting their pay to zero won’t make a dent in the total system. Taxpayers are on the hook, one way or another, for the costs incurred by uninsured people who get their care at emergency rooms. Of course, that also means the uninsured DO have access to medical care. The list goes on, but not a lot of people really care to parse the facts and arguments. They believe what they believe and that’s the end of it.

So how do you sell change to people who don’t think they need it? Talk about their problems and their fears. What scares people who have insurance? Not having it. Or not getting covered for something major. Losing coverage with the loss of a job. And….well, actually, that’s about it. Especially if the coverage is paid for by employers and the bill isn’t paid directly by the insured.

Stop talking about other countries and other people. And stop trying to micromanage by offering “end-of-life counseling” that can be twisted into “death panels.” Keep it simple, stupid, and tell me why it’s better for me, not for some other mope I’ll never meet.

People are willing to buy all kinds of things they don’t need, if the sales pitch is compelling. Perhaps the administration should hire the marketing people behind bottled water, leaf blowers or Chia Pets. Problem solved.

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2 Responses to Thoughts on Life: If I Was Selling Health Care Reform

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