Before I begin, let me preface this post by saying this is
not a politically charged piece, nor is it a celebration or indictment of
health care reform. I had the great pleasure of traveling to Victoria, British
Columbia, in Canada, and Seattle, Washington, a couple of weeks ago with IHI’s
wonderful reducing readmissions team. As you
can imagine, flying from Boston’s Logan Airport to Victoria International
Airport is not exactly an easy, direct flight, so there was a lot of time spent
in terminals. As is usually the case when you are traveling alone and passing
time in an airport restaurant, you tend to find someone nearby to chat with
about where you are going and why you are traveling. For me, the conversation
was always the same. “Oh, you work in health care? So, what exactly is going on
I began feeling like I was on Meet the Press with all
of the questions and specifics I was being asked, as if I had a hand in writing
the legislation. I thought this was very interesting. There seem to be many
strong opinions about The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or what
has come to be known as “Obamacare.” No matter which side of the argument
people fall on, they almost always seem to have a strong stance on why their
side is correct. Yet, without fail, they also seem to have more questions or
are incorrectly stating what they deem as factual. This had me asking: how can
this continue to be such a polarizing issue, when a vast majority of the
general public does not even know what is behind it?
A lot of my discussions in British Columbia had me admitting
that, sadly, much of the conversation surrounding America’s health care reform
is politically motivated. There are many good people and organizations out
there trying to spread the word and help people understand exactly what the
changes mean, but many continue only to listen to the side of the aisle that
reaffirms their beliefs.
The Henry J. Kaiser
Family Foundation released a brief 10 question quiz
earlier this year that allows people to test their knowledge about the reform.
What I liked most about this quiz is that they phrased the questions in
language you would hear on the news. There was no medical or legal jargon; it
was straightforward and sounded like terms and facts you hear in everyday
conversations. Another resource people should be familiar with is the Healthcare.gov
“Information for You” page. These resources allow people to familiarize
themselves with exactly how reform will affect them.
Our society has done a great job discussing all the
arguments and infighting that went into creating and passing this law, but
little focus has been put on conveying how every American will be affected by
it. It is important for all of us to use resources such as the ones mentioned
above, and to speak to our care providers about what, if anything, will change
for us. The most important takeaway in this debate is not which side of the
argument you fall on, but being knowledgeable enough about the issue to take
that stance. One thing I admired most about all the encounters I had was that
people were willing to ask questions and then open to learning more. This is
something we should all be doing.
So maybe next time you are gathering with friends or you’re
out somewhere, and you hear someone ask, “So, what exactly is going on with
Obamacare?” you’ll be able to help spread much needed knowledge.