Defensive Strategy

Healthcare Reform: Where are the Benefits?

12 Oct 2009  

There is broad agreement in the United States that healthcare reform is good concept.  Indeed, it is very hard to oppose it.  It is also hard to oppose the environment, human rights and world peace.

But there is very little agreement about the plans being considered.  From a marketing perspective, I think there are two obvious problems with how the debate is unfolding.

The first problem is complexity.  The bills being considered are complicated and detailed.  There are many different elements and angles.  Some of the bills are over 1,000 pages long.

The proposals are so complicated it is almost impossible to actually know what is being proposed.  What is the main point, anyway?

The second problem is a lack of benefits.  One of the most basic marketing principles is that people are motivated by benefits.  But it is very hard to find the benefits in some of the healthcare proposals.  For most people the most important question is simple: what is in it for me?  At the moment it is very unclear.

The lack of benefits is rather startling.  For people with health insurance, it isn’t clear how the new plan will help.  There isn’t a compelling benefit.  For many people without health insurance, the prospect of being forced to buy it isn’t attractive.  There isn’t a compelling benefit for them, either.

Most people would agree that there are real downsides in the proposals:  huge amounts of new government spending, higher taxes, more government bureaucracy, uncertainty, change and risk.

At the moment the downsides far outweigh the benefits for many people.  It is tough to sell anything when this is the case.

The people leading the healthcare reform movement should simplify things and identify some benefits that people care about and believe.  If they don’t, they will find themselves attempting to sell a proposal that many people don’t want, and that isn’t winning approach.

2 Responses

  1. Tim Joyce says:

    This is a very well-articulated point and I agree that marketing is the central problem with efforts to reform heath care. Peggy Noonan, who opines for the Wall Street Journal had a similar analysis:

    “Every big idea that works is marked by simplicity, by clarity. You can understand it when you hear it, and you can explain it to people. Social Security: Retired workers receive a public pension to help them through old age. Medicare: People over 65 can receive taxpayer-funded health care. Welfare: If you have no money and cannot support yourself, we will help as you get back on your feet.

    These things are clear. I understand them. You understand them. The president’s health-care plan is not clear, and I mean that not only in the sense of “he hasn’t told us his plan.” I mean it in terms of the voodoo phrases, this gobbledygook, this secret language of government that no one understands—”single payer,” “public option,” “insurance marketplace exchange.” No one understands what this stuff means, nobody normal.”

  2. Phil Hoopes says:

    Tim: Good points and I agree. You might be interested in knowing that most doctors, at least the ones in my conservative state of Utah, are not for ObamaCare. It has nothing to do with losing more money. Healthcare reform is nothing new. Ever since I started practicing in 1983, the government and insurance industry has been changing the way we practice and are reimbursed substantially. They have cut our cataract surgery fee by 70% already which now just barely covers our expense to do the surgery. Thank goodness for me I am now 100% LASIK which is not government or insurance controlled and cash up front. Anyway, nearly 40% of the doctors I know and talk to (including my 2 sons who are doctors) tell me they will retire early or quit if this bill goes through. It has everything to do with making the right choices for our patients and not having a governmental 3rd party telling us how to practice and when we have to limit our care! There will be rationed care for the elderly. If the public option is so great, how come the congress will be exempt from it? Why don’t they just give all of us the same healthcare plan they have?

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