Across party lines, voters identified affordable premiums and low, out-of-pocket expenses as the two most important things they consider when choosing a healthcare plan. It is not surprising, therefore, that throughout the survey, voters consistently raised concerns about out-of-pocket costs and the potential for higher taxes as factors making different proposals less desirable.
Another important piece of good news is that the tools for providing this education and facilitating this dialogue are abundant. The new administration has proven effective at utilizing all of them—from direct online video addresses to Web-based information to twittering.
The administration should be applauded for establishing regional health summits to discuss healthcare, town-hall style, with voters. These summits should continue and should be used not simply as an opportunity to rehash problems, but talk about the tradeoffs that will be inherent in potential solutions.
Others who will be called upon to provide leadership in shaping policy should also engage. Whether members of Congress, local chambers of commerce or civic organizations, those who are able should convene forums and engage in informed dialogue about potential solutions and the need for change. Voters should be encouraged to study, select and then get behind specific proposals.
Leaders in all sectors of the discussion—policymakers, consumers, providers, businesses, insurers, patient advocates—must help raise the level of conversation to an honest, straightforward exchange about the system and what change will mean to individuals.
Health policy is inextricably linked to how well we age as a nation. Added years can be a gift or a burden to humanity depending upon how they are used. To the extent that long-lived people are physically fit, mentally sharp, and financially secure, societies will thrive. To the extent people grow frail, dependent, and impoverished as they age, everyone's well being will be diminished. Universal, equitable, affordable healthcare can make the difference.
An informed nation must take action.
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Updated on 5/12/09: An earlier headline was replaced.