Unless you're sick or dying, health care is boring. The media knows this, and that's why today's unprecedented opportunity to fix our broken system has devolved into a debate about everything other than health care.
Take a look at this week's "Health Care Special Report" print edition of TIME Magazine. The magazine committed a remarkable 10 of its total 68 pages to health care. Great. But now read those pages. Of 80 total paragraphs, only 8 discuss actual policy (10 if you stretch things), and only 1 of the many proposals passing through government is called out by name (The Wyden Bill).
In the picture below, I've indicated those paragraphs that specifically address a piece of health care legislation:
Less than 10% of TIME Magazine's coverage of "health care" addresses specific legislation passing through Washington. No wonder "the American People" are confused and frustrated.
TIME starts its coverage by saying, "The more the public hears, the less it seems to understand." Then it proves it:
There's a long introductory piece explaining that Americans' patience with healthcare reform is waning and warns of a coming 'backlash'. There's a meaningless survey on what our impressions are of health care. (How can we know without any of the facts?) There's an exclusive interview with President Obama that focuses on how hard this is and how much he admires HMO Kaiser-Permanente. There's a "one-stop graphic guide" that is neither graphic nor accurate nor insightful, and then there's an extended opinion piece by Joe Klein on why it's difficult to make decisions in a capitalist democracy.
There is not one article identifing the actual proposals passing around Washington, nor any real attempt to explain what the pieces of the puzzle are. In other words, if you are interested in what government is thinking about doing and what impact it will have on your life (the kinds of things that might help you decide what you're for and against), you'd have to go elsewhere. The trouble is, "elsewhere" is saying the same, and quoting from the same surveys.
No wonder we're losing patience. Obama's popularity isn't taking a hit because of what his administration is talking about; he's losing popularity because we don't know what he's talking about.
Enough rant. Now I'm going to put my money where my mouth is.
I claim we can solve any problem with a picture. I can't think of any better chance to prove it. I spent yesterday with my colleague Tony Jones (a Johns Hopkins MD and MBA) locked in a room with a big whiteboard and every piece of health care legislation documentation we could find.
Using the visual thinking tools I discuss in my book, we came up with a series of simple pictures that go a long way towards explaining what "health care reform" is really about. And guess what: it isn't really healthcare. (It's about insurance. Look for the source of the money opposing all the plans and you'll see "private insurance" written all over. More on this asap.)
I'll complete the pictures this week and get them posted as soon as I can. My goal is to have them ready before congress gets back from vacation in two weeks, and then try to get them circulating in DC. If you'd like to help, let me know.