Okay, it’s official. I just clicked “submit” and entered myself into the Washington Post‘s contest to find “America’s Next Great Pundit.” Will I win? I think the odds are stacked against me–I’m sure a ton of people entered–but I wouldn’t have taken the time to enter if I didn’t at least think I stood a chance…..which conjures up a classic scene from the movie Dumb & Dumber:
Lloyd: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me… ending up together?
Mary: Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. I mean, we don’t really…
Lloyd: Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?
Mary: Not good.
Lloyd: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?
Mary: I’d say more like one out of a million.
Lloyd: So you’re telling me there’s a chance… *YEAH!*
Anyway, here’s my 400-word submission and my 100-word bio for those who are interested. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll recognize that my submission is a revised version of a post I wrote some time ago. Hopefully, it’s more developed now.
If You Like The Health Insurance You Have Now…
At every opportunity, President Obama has sought to reassure Americans that “If you like the health insurance you have now, you can keep it.” His strategy is obvious: people who like—or at least don’t dislike—the status quo will resist change, so they must be assured that health “reform” doesn’t mean “change.” The problem with this approach, however, is that it makes people complacent when they ought to be apprehensive.
“But I have insurance,” you say. Okay, but here’s the problem: Yes, health reform is about providing affordable coverage for the 45 million people living in the United States who are uninsured, but it is also about ensuring health security for the rest of us at risk of losing our current coverage, and eliminating the scourge of underinsurance that bankrupts nearly one million Americans annually.
For those of us with health insurance through our job who think we’ve got things under control, the reality is that little stands between us and being uninsured other than an employer who woke up this morning feeling like they could still afford to offer us insurance. Yet costs are rising so quickly that without system-wide price controls, our employers are likely to wake up one day and think, “I can’t run a business like this.” When offering insurance becomes prohibitively expensive, they may scale back benefits—leaving us underinsured—or they may stop offering it altogether. And buying insurance on our own is even more expensive. Just like that, we can say goodbye to our coverage.
Why is it so hard to get this point across? Because we prefer the devil we know to the devil we don’t know. The insured are wary of reform because they know what they stand to lose, but not what they stand to gain. Ironically, many of the town hall protesters who held signs angrily declaring “keep the government’s hands off my health care” are likely to lose their coverage—not because the government will take it from them, but because the current system is unsustainable.
Obama’s message gets it half right. We do need to reassure people who like what they have now that health reform poses no threat to their coverage. At the same time, however, we must give people the other side of the story: Without meaningful health reform, there’s a very real chance that they will lose the coverage that they have now.
I’m a health policy doctoral student at the University of North Carolina with a political science focus. Years of schooling and hard work—both in and out of Washington—have made me a health care expert, but it is my South Georgia roots that set me apart, enabling me to communicate complex issues to a lay audience. My writing is professional yet conversational, serious yet humorous, like a dialogue with colleagues over pints of beer. America deserves an honest and entertaining pundit who adheres to high intellectual standards and is passionate about making his ideas widely accessible to the public.