In conversation with my mother:

“Well, with this Obamacare thing, we’ll all get rationed healthcare.”

“Mom, do you even know what `public option’ means?”

“The government’s taking over healthcare!”

“Mom, the government isn’t running healthcare. All they want to do is expand Medicare to cover people who don’t have insurance or are underinsured. That’s it.”

(long pause)

“Are you SURE?”

“Yes, mom. I have a chronic health condition. This is something I actually looked into.”

“Well, what’s to stop employers from just dropping our insurance then, if there’s a public option?”

“Because Medicare SUCKS, mom. Doctors treat you like crap. You still pay copays for insurance. It’s a shitty insurance program for poor and desperate people. Nobody fucking wants to be on Medicare. But for poor people, or people with chronic conditions, or other folks who can’t afford health insurance – it’s *something.*”

“But –“

“Ok, mom. Think of it this way. It’s like the post office. You can go to the post office and have a letter sent for cheap, and it takes 5-7 days to get there, right? And you wait in a long line and the employees are surly. Or you can go to UPS or Fedex and get it shipped overnight and walk right up to the counter and everyone treats you great. You still get your letter sent. It’s just that the service and speed you get from the post office sucks compared to UPS and Fedex. But! It’s affordable. The postal service makes it possible for everyone to send a letter, not just rich people. All they want to do is create an insurance version of the U.S. postal service. And the post office certainly hasn’t put DHL, Fedex, or UPS out of business.”

“Are you SURE?”

“Yes, mom.”

“But… then why do they make it sound like a government takeover of healthcare?”

“Speaking as somebody in marketing and communications, I can tell you exactly what I’d say as a communications manager at a big insurance company… and `government takeover of healthcare’ is it. These are the same talking points the insurance companies dragged out back in 1993, the last time we tried to get healthcare reform going. Because the other stuff in this bill – which the insurance companies aren’t keen on advertising – is that there’s going to be a lot more regulation for the insurance companies. Dropping bank regulations on the banking industry in the 90s helped create the greedy meltdown last year, and having an unregulated insurance industry is what’s turning health care into a greedy meltdown. The bill will eliminate lifetime caps on coverage and force them to cover people with pre-existing conditions (among other things). These companies make billions of dollars a year. This is their marketing strategy. Tell people the government’s taking over healthcare, and people freak out. I do a lot of marketing stuff. I provide people with a lot of talking points. Now think of somebody who’s making about 8 times what I make sending press releases to every talk show host and major news outlet in America about what’s become a totally political issue and spending millions in money lobbying your representatives. Scary talking points make much better news than `expanding Medicare.’ People who are afraid are really easy to manipulate.”

“Well, I just don’t know how it’ll all turn out.”

“I don’t either. But it’ll be really interesting to find out.”

(for those interested, here is the actual latest version of the bill. Wiki-like forum where you can actually comment on diff’t sections of the bill. Very cool.)

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