I often get scolded by my Progressive brethren because they believe I should put no effort trying to bring in those on the Right into the fold. That is not what I am attempting, and the Conservatives I talk to know I am not trying to turn them into Democrats. Medicare for All need not be party-based.
When I have conversations, I want to talk about policy in a form that they understand. I find that I can get into the psyche of many of them, not all, where it is clear a seed is planted. In other words, they are doing it for themselves and not for some Liberals. And this has worked for both the educated or the not-so-educated. Again, it does not work for all.
The loud, boisterous ones get all the attention. But there are enough that if we work with can bolster a necessary supermajority to govern. Some think this thinking is naive. It is only so if we only care about engagements that require no work or time. Living in a very red area has taught me much. Their “scouts” are always engaged, from their churches to their many organizations to individuals. They engage much more so than I have seen on the Progressive side with their audience.
It’s funny. Just before the pandemic, one of the guys I least expected told me that he had something to tell me that I would like. This Republican said he was voting mostly Democratic. And it was not just about Trump.
There is a chapter in my recent book, “It’s Worth It: How to Talk to Your Right-Wing Relatives, Friends, and Neighbors,” that is probative.” I am one person, and I have had scores of these encounters. Here is a chapter in which I describe a Medicare for All experience that still touches me.
Explaining Medicare for All
I was sitting in one of my favorite Coffee Shops. Before the pandemic I just about lived in there till one o’clock. I would then go to my home studio to do the Politics Done Right show.
I would return to the Coffee Shop many times again in the late afternoons. On this specific day a woman came and sat next to me.
“I see you here all of the time,” she said sort of soliciting an informative reply.
I told her I was a national blogger and radio/media show host and loved the environment. I get a lot of blog ideas from a myriad of people I meet there. Many have become subjects in my blogs or shows, anonymous most of the time of course.
We started talking about healthcare. I do not remember how we got there. But we both agreed that the health insurance system was a mess.
The woman thought she hated Obamacare even though she was on a particularly good employer-based insurance plan. I have spoken to many people about health care. It is one of my most important topics of conversations.
I asked many questions. What about her insurance did she not like? I got the standard response. The premium was too high. The deductibles were too high. The co-pays were a nuisance. She hated having to go through the ringer to see a specialist. And she hated having to select alternative drugs because the insurance company only allowed a specific one. The woman hated that she had to constantly check to see if a specific doctor was on her plan.
I told my new friend that my wife had Lupus and because she has a preexisting condition that it has been hard to get insurance and as a self-employed business owner the yearly increases were terrible.
I did not yet tell the woman that we were on Obamacare and the value compared to how things were before was orders of magnitude better. I did not want to do anything to change the flow of the discourse.
I pointed out her plan was no different than Obamacare.
“Really?” she asked sort of in shock.
At this point because I was so attentive as I listened without offering any opinions the woman likely took my response not as one favoring Obamacare but just stating a fact. I am sure she thought I was one of the few black Republicans in the community.
I asked her what she would like in a plan. She wanted no deductible, small copay, the ability to select the doctor of her choice and the drug of her doctor’s choice. In effect she wanted to escape the chains of the insurance company.
I told her she was describing the concept for Medicare for All. She gave me a confused look. I also pointed out that like Obamacare insurance companies could not rescind the policy or place caps on how much they were willing to pay for her care. At this point it was clear that she was having a mental conversation.
I felt guilty because I am sure that with all the talking I was doing, mostly by having her answer her own questions and having her tweak her answers with further questions for answers requiring clarification, she was sure that I was just an analytical Republican.
The most important question had to do with the option to choose. She said she did not want socialized health insurance because she wanted the freedom to choose health insurance companies that best fulfill her needs.
I asked her what happens if her needs change in the middle of the year. She had a blank look.
It was time for me to come clean because it was time to go a bit deeper.
“Mam, I think I need to tell you something,” I said. “I am Progressive Liberal, a real lefty.”
The woman turned cherry red in her face. She could not speak for a few seconds. The piercing stare eye to eye seemed like an eternity.
The woman then blurted out, “But you are so nice!”
I could not help but laugh out loud. I told her the caricature she sees portrayed in Right Wing Media is just that, a caricature. I told her she should go have lunch with our local Liberal Ladies Who Lunch.
I wanted to continue the conversation and she did too. I asked her to please tell me which system gives her the most freedom. Is the one that you have to shop around for on a yearly basis which comes the closest to her needs freer than the one where you go to the doctor of your choice who can prescribe the medicine or procedure they deem more fit? Of course, she picked the latter which is Medicare for All.
By then she had already convinced herself that Medicare for All was the best choice. But while intellectually she could have made the leap, ideology had her stating what was a fact to her. That will cost too much, and all our insurance would go up.
I asked her by how much she thought her premium would go up. She said 10 to 20%. I asked her if she would give someone $200 to pay a $160 bill. She said that made no sense.
“Isn’t that what insurance companies do?” I asked.
“But don’t they have to put away for the rainy day?” she asked.
That was her way to talk about managing risk.
“If there was only one entity paying the bill wouldn’t all the cost get spread across millions of people?” I asked.
After the conversation, it was clear the seed was planted, fertilized, and sprouting. She had proving to herself that Single Payer Medicare for All was the best answer.
I am sure her husband will have her second guessing herself. But I am confident that the tenor of our discourse made her feel empowered as she should.
My new friend may not become a healthcare activist with her husband (to keep the peace) but I am sure she will never look at health insurance the same again. It was clear she saw the utter lack of logic of private insurance as the method of paying for one’s healthcare.
Again, you won’t win them all. But you will some.
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- It's Worth It: How to Talk To Your Right-Wing Relatives, Friends, and Neighbors
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