Marketing 101

Dear Mr. Axelrod,
When you have an important message on a key policy issue from the leader of your political party, the email should not be titled “Got a few minutes?”

Aside from being grammatically incorrect (it should be “Have a few minutes?”) you almost guarantee having your email deleted before it’s been read. The answer to “got a few minutes” is always “no.” The answer to “To Whom It May Concern” is a universal, “not me; check for someone else while you’re in the trash can.”

If you’re sending out a short, compelling video about health care reform, maybe use the subject lines:
Four Minutes to Health Care Reform
Health Care Reform in Just Four Minutes
Health Care Reform in a Few Minutes
A Few Minutes to Health Care Reform.

This is just Advertising 101, people. Your only chance to be read is the headline. You have one second. “Got a minute?” doesn’t cut it. (Have vs. Got is Grammar 1A.)

(You can see the video on the White House site, but I’m not linking because I don’t reward poor grammar.)

Guest post

Not really a guest post. An email I got from the White House. Instead of forwarding, I’m pasting it here so we can debate the facts.

Health Insurance Reform Reality Check

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won’t be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details:

8 common myths about health insurance reform

1. Reform will stop “rationing” – not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a “government takeover” of health care or lead to “rationing.” To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
2. We can’t afford reform: It’s the status quo we can’t afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
3. Reform would encourage “euthanasia”: It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
4. Vets’ health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans’ access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President’s budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
5. Reform will benefit small business – not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare “doughnut” hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
7. You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:
2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:
3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:
4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more:
5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:
6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:
7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people – one in every three Americans under the age of 65 – were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:
8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance – projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:
***end message***

Let’s debate the facts, not the propaganda.

Food Inc.

LOVE having grandma live nearby. Saw Food Inc. last night, our fourth movie in three years, and cannot get over it.

What has become of our nation’s food supply? Why is it all made from a couple of crops, paid for by tax dollars, even though it’s not the healthiest food?

I mean, I taught Fast Food Nation for three years to my freshman English students. And I’m pretty well versed in everything Pollan says on NPR when they get in one of their all-food-all-the-time blocks. But I’m still shocked by a lot of what Food Inc. had to say.

Sure, it had the predictable propaganda moments. Music swell over repeated shots of the boy who died from E coli poisoning because beef recalls are still voluntary and the FDA and USDA have no real regulatory power anymore. Dastardly sinister music while we watch what technology has done to assembly-line food production. But pretty simple parsing of the purpose of the film would predict that. Of course it’s propaganda. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t have important information. Critical thinking skills (which, unfortunately, are not always taught in colleges anymore), deduce that most of the fundamentals of the film are sound.

Mostly, I’m shocked that when the government complains we’re out of money, that we can’t get Americans healthy because we can’t afford it, they’re ignoring a glaringly simple way to rescue two birds with one pocketed stone: stop paying anyone not following organic practices. Stop it. It should not cost tax payers for huge farming corporations (all four of them who control virtually all of what this country produces) to make food seem cheap. What tax dollars buy is the ability for chemical-laden corn syrup and soy Frankenbeans to be cheaper than more healthful foods (healthful for our bodies and the planet).

If we stop paying huge multinational corporations to produce tons and tons and tons of food that we then overprocess and feed to animals who should be eating something else, maybe food will cost what it should. Maybe a head of broccoli will be cheaper than brown, carbonated sugar water trucked all across the country using scarce petroleum. Maybe organic proteins will be cheaper than a chemical-laden, ammonia bathed, bacteria-opportunistic burger or chlorine washed chicken breast at a fast food restaurant. Or maybe people will cut back from their average of 200 pounds of meat a year because the real cost finally makes it a food they enjoy but limit.

And maybe if we take the tax savings and pay for health care, people who buy the now cheaper whole foods will be healthier and not need as much medical treatment. Maybe obesity and diabetes will decline from epidemic proportions and we will all be eating what our local farmers produce instead of the chemical sludge, shipped from thousands of miles away, that we’re all pretending is food.

So cut all subsidies to food producing companies. Don’t lie about how important corn syrup is for our national health. If we have that much corn, so much that it can be processed into any number of pretend foods, then we have too much corn. Stop paying agribusiness to genetically modify and pesticide and herbicide and chemically fertilize and gas-harvest and chemically wash and process and alter and reprocess and package and truck and sell.

Now that we have all that money back, take the savings and give us health care instead of massive profit private health insurance. Or subsidize organic farms and teach small farmers to become organic farmers. It would do the nation’s food supply a lot more good than huge quantities of sprayed and processed and modified foods.

And while the gov. is taking care of that, please vote with your dollars. Buy food grown safely by people you trust.

After the movie, we ate here and I still eyed the potatoes, a produuct normally so pesticide and herbicide treated that it has to sit for several weeks after harvest to outgas all the chemicals before it’s deemed suitable for human consumption. Mmmmm.

Health care

The New Yorker has an amazing piece on health care. Read this article by Atul Gawande, a Boston surgeon if you are interested in health care costs, health care reform, and why we should talk about health care not health insurance. If you can only read one page (which I never recommend, but I’m realistic), skip to pp 6.

Short version: the point isn’t who’s paying. The point is whether profit or care is privileged. Comparing apples to apples of population demographics and socioeconomic factors, too many tests and surgeries, mean higher costs to everyone—insurers, patients, and government—which actually makes patients less healthy. The more we spend, the worse care gets. Sometimes because docs are padding their wallets. Sometimes because the medical culture’s priorities are wack. Not because of malpractice or technology.

And the best health care? Collaboration and best practices seem to be key. In one case, the Mayo Clinic, salaries help keep costs way down because docs focus on getting people well the best way possible. And their quality far outstrips those hospitals, towns, and cities that cost the most. Ditto elsewhere that docs simply come together and agree to collaborate and root out poor care, though they’re not salaried.

So are we going to focus on patients or revenue? Read the article and help your national representative decide.