How can we advance the conversation around healthcare for all?

One of the most controversial topics floating around social media, dinner tables, and political debates over the last few years has been universal healthcare.

You’ve heard the common arguments:

  1. What if I LIKE my health insurance?!
  2. Why am I paying for someone else’s care?
  3. How can the government FORCE me to have insurance?

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Insert heavy sigh here.

I’m actually not here to talk about any of those and whether I think they’re valid.

Regardless of where you land on this spectrum, it’s a topic that isn’t going away any time soon. The COVID-19 pandemic really brought to light the importance of healthcare, as well as how many people are walking around without coverage or without adequate coverage. In addition to being an incredibly important conversation, it’s a very nuanced conversation. It’s a conversation that needs to be had.

Unfortunately (for the most part), I think we’re having it in the completely wrong way.

Or, to be more specific, the wrong people are talking instead of listening. Somehow, the loudest voices in this conversation seem to be from people who don’t actually use their health insurance or have a need for expanded healthcare services.

Now, before you come at me, I’m not talking about whether or not you visit the dentist or your primary care physician for your annual visits. If you’re on top of that, YAY! You’re doing great, especially if you also have a job that provides you coverage that allows for those visits to be free (or close to it). I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself, but your voice is not the one we need to hear in this conversation.

It’s time to listen to people with chronic conditions.

We need to listen to those who manage ongoing healthcare needs, especially if they are unable to afford care or their insurance plan often doesn’t cover what they need. Yes, this happens more than you think. The stories of those who have sat on the phone for hours, often in tears, with their insurance companies as they beg for the treatment they need: this is what we need to shout from the rooftops.

If you like your health insurance plan, you probably don’t need universal healthcare.

A controversial statement? Maybe! But note: this doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from it. But you don’t NEED it. We need to start listening to the people who need something to change, whether that’s affordability, accessibility, or both. The healthcare system needs to work for those who need it the most, not the least.

There’s a lot of talk around affordability, and that’s amazing. It is, however, a really small piece of this disastrous puzzle. As a provider and a patient, I will double down on the idea that there’s so much more that’s broken aside from the cost. Understandably, if you don’t experience it, you wouldn’t necessarily know all the ins and outs.

So let’s listen to those who do!

If you find yourself in that “I like my health insurance!” category, try taking a step back and listening instead of throwing in your two cents.

This isn’t necessarily your battle, but maybe you can learn to support someone who is fighting it.

Will it change your stance on the issue? Who knows? Either way, you’ll be more informed and that’s always a plus.

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