For the last day, I have been reading a lot of the blog posts and tweets about Obama’s health plan, and I came away with a few thoughts:
1) I am not learning much information from these blog posts and tweets.
2) People who write exclusively about politics seem to get angry very easily.
3) Political writers treat public policy as a team sport (my side shoots, scores!)
4) Too many bloggers have one eye on the prize, and the other eye on “their prize,” whether it be a mention in The Huffington Post or Fox News, which is cool, but doesn’t really have much to do with health care.
But this is not a post about politics or health care. It is a post about stories.
After the speech, I had one question on my mind, the same as many Americans — How is all this going to affect ME?!
Sophia and I are both freelancers, and we shell out $1000 a month for a mediocre HMO. We have discussed changing our plan, but Sophia has a pre-existing condition. We’re going to have to do something soon, because my plan is useless to me in New York City unless there is an emergency since all my doctors are in a “network” in Los Angeles. We are lucky to have health insurance, but we pay for it in a huge way, and I would like to have more options.
With this question on my mind, I went on Twitter and asked, “Sophia and I pay $1000 dollars a month for health insurance — what do you pay?”
Some answered my tweet, all with different stories. Some had great insurance plans from a spouse’s company, and were concerned about how changes would affect the quality. One woman said she and her husband, being young and healthy, chose to use their money as a down payment for a house, rather than pay for health insurance. Another woman said her sister went into debt because of a long illness. One man was rejected by all but one insurance companies because his son was autistic, and is force to spend $2,000 a month for his family. Most of those who answered are not in a dire financial situation (after all, we were all on Twitter with our expensive iPhones!), but we are as concerned about the state of our health care, both the quality and the cost, as anyone else, rich or poor.
Politicians love to use these types of personal stories to bolster their intimacy of their speeches. Great orators since ancient Greece have trotted out a “true” tale of poor Hermes (or Jacques or Joe) who has no drachmas (or francs or dollars), but under their plan, if elected, will be provided with plentiful gyros (or croissants or Egg McMuffins) in every urn (or vase or pot).
Stories sell the political point.
The 140 character “stories” on Twitter were special to me because they were told for no political gain. I had no idea of the political persuasion of anyone. They were just life stories, and it is difficult to fight with a story. You can disagree with a person’s choice, but it is their story to tell, and you can’t dismiss that.
I was most moralistic with the blogger who put a down payment on a house rather than buy health insurance. As the son of an anxious father who took out extended warranties on RADIOS at electronics stores “just in case” it breaks, I do not have gambling in my blood. How could they take such a risk, especially with their health?! Then again, how “smart” have I been for paying $12,000 a year for the ability to go once a year to my doctor for a cholesterol test? Who can judge another without being in their shoes, or first hearing their story?
The point is I learned more about our health care crisis by listening to your stories, than reading the angry rantings of political pundits. All of us have stories about bad doctors, life-saving hospitals, uncaring nurses, brilliant physicians, Blue Cross customer service, the good and bad magazines in the waiting rooms, malpractice suits, and even the time your own family cheated Medicare!
Politics is important, but in this case, storytelling shoots, Wins!