Monday, March 19, 2012

The Vision Thing and Health Reform: It’s about Freedom

Ah, the Vision Thing!

Quip by President George H. W. Bush when asked why he did not stop thinking about short term objectives and start concentrating on the big picture

Ah, splendid Vision, Golden Time,

The end of hunger, cold, and crime,

An end of rent, an end of rank,

An end of balance at the bank!

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), The New Millennium

March 19, 2012 - Ah, yes the Vision Thing in the new millennium!

With the Supreme Court hearings on the health law’s constitutionality and the November election barreling down upon us, how will the Presidential candidates and their political parties express their vision of how health care ought to be in the future?

How will they express their respective visions in a single sound bite or a catch phrase? How will they reduce this very complicated, multidimensional, controversial subject into one telling expression that seizes the American public’s imagination? How will they clarify and simplify their vision of the future?

Charisma alone won’t do it. One candidate may not have it, and the other may have lost it. The political message has to have an optimistic ring. President Reagan evoked it when he spoke of “The Shining City on a Hill,” President Obama did it when he over-promised “Hope and Change.”

The message, whatever it is, has to possess clarity about the future, not blame for the past.

Two things are for sure.

The vision of a bigger government, a bigger health system, bigger coverage, bigger taxes, bigger spending, bigger regulations, and bigger debt won’t do it.

Nor will the vision of smaller government that does not perform, that offers fewer services with more personal spending, more personal sacrifice, and more personal responsibility.

What to say?

“Universal coverage” is passé. “Market competition” sounds cruel. “Fair for all” and “Free for all” doesn’t ring true. “There’s no Free Lunch” has become a cliché.

Still, a message emphasizing freedom – freedom from Big Brother, freedom of choice of doctor and health plan, freedom to live as one pleases, freedom to live free of government regulations, and freedom of fear from personal health care or nationalbankruptcy – might sell.

If the health law is repealed or declared unconstitutional. “Free at last!” might work but that has been used, or “freedom of expression, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom to choose” might be good but that too has been used.

“Freedom of behavior with freedom from debt but responsibility of choice” might be a winning phrase.

The Freedom Thing and the Vision Thing are hard things to put into words, but they represent a universal yearning of an exceptional people with an exceptional but imperfect health system in an exceptional country with an exceptional history of freedom.

Tweet: Expressing an acceptable vision of health reform into a sound bite or catch phrase is proving difficult for presidential candidates.


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