The everything to your nothing

Sometimes those in front of the cameras and those writing for the press get the most attention. For example, part of what we decide to write about each day on OH usually comes from something we read somewhere in the news. While I have a profound respect and admiration for many of the reporters out there talking about healthcare, sometimes the “everything” we see  is really “nothing” in the whole scheme of things. Rather, the everything that we see is only one small piece to a very large puzzle.

There is a much bigger picture out there.

When 15% of the public thinks that the Supreme Court overturned the healthcare law (they did not), we know that not all information making it through is good information (if information is making it through at all). In fact, as we discussed on OH the other day, there is likely to be a lot of misinformation about healthcare coming out soon and it is up to us to be as prepared as possible to dispel myths and help push good information.

The personal experience portion of healthcare really needs to be captured in an adequate way so that it can be used by the media and policy makers alike. We need timely stories connected to healthcare policy.

Stories matter

Here at OH, we are always looking for partners to help us take our message to the next level. Many of you may remember our latest collaboration with Inspire, where patients tell us their stories about their healthcare experience. You can read one such story here.

We are excited to be entering into a new collaboration highlighting stories from the Health & Justice project. Each week, a new story will be shared with a corresponding article discussing one aspect of healthcare policy heard about in the story. From the Health & Justice intro:

“In the current debate on healthcare reform there are a lot of statistics and studies; a lot of back and forth about constitutionality and cost but what is often missing are the stories of everyday people and their personal struggles with finding the healthcare they need.  Health & Justice Project is an ongoing effort to share those stories and to inspire action on the local and national level.  Health & Justice Project officially launched on June 18 with an audio documentary series, narrated by producers Chaela Herridge Meyer and Jeremy Helton.  The storytellers are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives; small business owners and medical professionals, students and clergy, from Buffalo, NY.  They share their personal stories about our complex healthcare system.”

To learn more about Health & Justice Project or become a subscriber go here. Below is a an introduction piece that better explains the project:

To kick off this new feature, I want to share the story of Eric and Jessica Czubaj who face the challenges of providing healthcare for themselves and their children while running a family business. (6 min, 13 sec, Music Credit: Human Qualities by Explosions in the Sky).

We know that being able to afford healthcare coverage is a timely healthcare policy issue. In fact, it is even in the name of the most significant healthcare law in decades: the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”

The architects of PPACA didn’t just think that making healthcare more affordable happened to be a good idea; they knew that healthcare costs are growing at an uncontrollable rate and something must be done. We know that it is going to be impossible to sustain these rates in healthcare if we do not do something about it. Consider just for a second how much we spend on healthcare and how this compares to other countries. Consider also how this “upward trend” in spending does not look to be slowing but rather increasing (and far surpassing other countries).

To offer a practical example: Because much of the burden of these rising healthcare costs have been shifted to employers who offer healthcare insurance, employees are being asked carry some of this heavy load and pay for more of their healthcare. Both employers and employees are impacted by the downturn in the economy, and both are facing major decisions about how to pay for healthcare.

This is a major issue:

“Americans pay more for healthcare each year but get less coverage and fewer services for the premiums they pay. Health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages, yet rising premiums are only one of the ways families shoulder the burden of rising health care costs. With each passing year, families face increasing deductibles, copayments, and other out-of-pocket expenses, requiring them to make difficult decisions in order to make ends meet. In fact, one recent survey estimated that 72 million, or 41 percent, of nonelderly adults have accumulated medical debt or had difficulty paying medical bills in the past year. A full 61 percent of those with difficulty had insurance.”

As you heard in Eric and Jessica’s story above, healthcare costs are magnified when you are a small business owner. The options for affordable coverage are more difficult to find because of the way health insurance works (a topic for another post). The importance of healthcare is also magnified when you are considering what happens to you and your family when you have no health insurance coverage.

While there is still some confusion around what PPACA does for small business owners, the bottom line is that the bill tries to help these folks by offering up a tax credit for small businesses as a way to help them find affordable healthcare plans for their employees. In addition, PPACA has a portion of the law dedicated to states setting up their own Health Insurance Exchange so that employers (and employees) can find different health insurance options (some more affordable than others). While not solving the overall healthcare cost problem, these provisions in PPACA do help at least address the challenge of affording health insurance.

The challenge

Connecting stories to healthcare policy can be one powerful way to help show how much we need change in healthcare. There is no doubt that beginning to bend the cost curve, improve healthcare outcomes, increase quality, make the system more patient and family-centered is a challenge for healthcare. However, through stories and meaningful policy connections we can begin to address some of this issues in a way that can be heard by all types of healthcare stakeholders and policy makers.

This is our challenge – to be heard and to know what we can work towards together to create the healthcare system we all deserve.

Check back next week where you will hear the story of a healthcare provider who does her best each day to help people navigate the often confusing process of finding affordable health insurance.

Dr. Miller has his doctorate in clinical psychology and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine where he is the Director of the Office of Integrated Healthcare Research and Policy. His core task is to integrate mental health across all three of the department’s core mission areas: clinical, education, and research. Opinions expressed here are his own and not those of his employer.

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  • http://www.therecollective.net Jeremy Helton

    I am often confused by my own healthcare options as a single adult. I cannot imagine how it must feel to be struggling to find coverage and care for a child. It was exhausting to hear from the Czubaj’s about all the hoops they had to jump through. Thanks for sharing their story.

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