Talking about health care reform: People get it when they see what it does for them

Ask people if they support what specific provisions of healthcare reform actually do for them, [eliminating pre-existing conditions, etc.], and they’ll say they like it. But ask them if they favor “Obamacare,” and an individual mandate to buy insurance, and they’ll say it’s a bad thing. There’s an obvious disconnect there, and much of it is being pushed by right-wing attacks on health care reform.

Unfortunately, the attempt to make “Obamacare” a dirty word is working. According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll released on Feb. 27, 2012:

…In the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a clear majority of registered voters call the bill’s passage “a bad thing” and support its repeal if a Republican wins the White House in November. Two years after he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act— and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments about its constitutionality next month — the president has failed to convince most Americans that it was the right thing to do.

So, there’s a lot of work to do to dispel the myths and disinformation about health reform, and to refocus the dialogue. Here are some helpful suggestions from Media Matters about how to have a conversation about health care:

It’s not a government takeover

After people are informed that, under healthcare reform, they’ll still get their health coverage through their employers [not government], and wouldn’t be affected by the individual responsibility provision of the law, 60 percent of Americans support the program.

There’s a lot to like

Support for individual responsibility also goes up when people understand that:

Without it, insurers could refuse to cover sick people.

Without it, people might wait until they are seriously ill to get coverage, driving up insurance costs for everyone.

People would be excused from having to buy insurance if the cost would consume too large a share of their income.

For health insurance to work, it’s necessary to include people who are healthy to help pay for those who are sick.

It’s already working

Nearly 90 million Americans took advantage of the new health law’s prevention benefits last year [2011].

Nearly 3 million seniors with Medicare saved $1.5 billion on their medicines, and 24 million took advantage of the new Medicare preventive care benefit in 2011.

4 million small businesses can now claim tax credits for providing health coverage to their employees.

Nearly 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage.

2.8 million more young adults [ages 19-26] are now covered through their parents’ health insurance as they finish school or look for a job.

And, by the way…

On health care, Americans trust President Obama more than Republicans in Congress by a 9-point margin. And as for the “anti-mandate” venom being spewed on the right, let’s remember that “individual responsibility” has been a Republican mantra for many years and that, in fact, the idea that all Americans should have to buy health insurance was, originally, an idea promulgated by Republicans [as a way of enriching health insurance companies, of course]. Only when it became attached to President Obama did that idea become radioactive.  Really, people: we all want to be in charge of our own care. Healthcare reform doesn’t change that.

Okay, so the Affordable Care Act ain’t the ideal, Medicare-for-All solution that progressives yearn for [this one, too], and it’s a huge boon for insurance companies. But what we had before was clearly a disaster for individuals and families, and virtually everyone agreed that it stunk. Despite its flaws, there’s a lot to like in the Affordable Care Act, and people who look at its provisions from a personal standpoint—rather than through the nothing-Obama-does-can-be-okay filter pushed by Republicans—see the merits for themselves and their families. Repealing or gutting healthcare reform would be a step backwards, and we need to do everything we can to prevent that from happening—including attempting to have rationale conversations about the new law with people who haven’t taken the time to see it for what it can be—or already is—for them.