By now, we all know the number. Forty-seven million without health insurance, with that number likely to grow.
And with the presidential election campaign gearing up, anyone interested in the issue will be able to pick and choose from a selection of disturbing statistics that all point to one troubling fact: The number of uninsured has been increasing since around 2000.
No one can doubt the scope and immediacy of the problem. They become evident in any enlightened conversation on the issue, such as the recent public hearing on state health care concepts that took place during the spring meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Sitting through that hearing, I wondered how we will ever sift through such a complex morass of issues. But on reflection, I think the answer starts with thinking simple.
Listening to the discussion, I found myself getting caught up in the numbers and the details of various proposals. The thread of the dialogue made sense. Intellectually, I understood the need to do something. But I still wasn’t getting that gut feeling of urgency.
So I tried to think of 3 people I know who lack health insurance coverage. It took about 2 seconds: the lady I used to get my coffee from; a waiter acquaintance who put off needed dental work until he could stash away enough to get the job done; and a dance instructor who found out what it meant to be without coverage when a New York cabbie took a corner too tightly and squashed the poor guy’s toes.
In the case of these 3, things happen to have turned out well enough: The coffee lady remains fit, jogging regularly; the waiter is getting his teeth done; and the dance instructor’s toe crunching was just a brush relegating him temporarily to wallflower status.
But the threat of going bare on coverage still looms for them and the others in that 47 million count. I wondered how many in the room of about 200 people could also count off 3 people they know who don’t have coverage. I bet most could come up with 3 without too much effort or had crossed paths with at least 3 who lack health insurance.
If feeling the urgency is the first, simplest step in facing the problem, communicating consumer options is a second step.