Dear President Obama:
As fear mongering and health reform distortions have stolen the headlines this week, it is clear that very few of us understand what healthcare reform will look and feel like when it is done. In the absence of a clear vision, the pundits, the extremes, and the media have created the story…have filled the void…with sensationalized soundbytes and horrific headlines that crowd out the real conversations we should be having. Absent a vision, we face only legitimate and manufactured fears…over and over and over again.
We need to understand your vision for healthcare reform, beyond your important principles of paying for quality, covering the uninsured, incentivizing care coordination and prevention, and remaining deficit neutral. Intel CEO Paul Otellini recently made five reform recommendations in an Op Ed in the Politico newspaper. His first recommendation warrants repeating here: “Translate this often abstract and complex debate about health care reform into a vision of personal health — one that captures the national imagination, shows where we’re headed and explains what is expected of each of us with reform.”
Years ago, the Center for Aging Services Technologies, or CAST, came together with some unlikely bedfellows—hundreds of long term care providers, high tech companies, and universities—around a vision of a better way to care for seniors in America. With help from Intel, Pfizer, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and numerous providers from around the country, we produced an award-winning vision video—the story of a senior named “Ernesto” and his family and physician—to imagine the future of aging with innovative ways to help seniors live independently in their own homes, even as they face chronic disease or age-related infirmities. The video itself (a free download at http://www.agingtech.org/imagine_video.aspx) was hand delivered to every member of Congress during the last White House Conference on Aging.
Similarly, more than 150 innovative companies and providers as part of the Continua Health Alliance, have created a vision video (again, a free download at http://www.continuaalliance.org/connected-health-vision/vision.html) to capture the imagination about “connected health” about moving care to the home and to peoples’ everyday lives. Both the CAST and Continua vision videos are highly relevant to today’s reform debate. And they demonstrate the power of a video to tell a complex story that brings people together around an idea.
Perhaps it is time for a White House vision video that shows what reform would look like…that tells the story in terms we can all understand instead of relying upon the impenetrable legal language of the Congressional white papers and bills. The social media tools that you so effectively used in the campaign can now be used to enlist us in co-inventing and creating the vision for healthcare. You can’t leave it to our imaginations—or to the machinations of others—you have to give us something to respond to. A healthcare reform vision video, posted on You Tube, would help bring us back to important issues and show us where we’re headed. We’ll certainly need more specifics and details than a vision video can provide—we’ll need the details of a plan—but at least you would be providing a foundational narrative which we can all build upon.
Mr. President, please don’t let fear dominate or derail this important national discussion. And don’t let your own fear of repeating the mistakes of past reform efforts leave you on the sidelines while Congress and the media shape our imagination, ideas, and emotions for reform. You have an opportunity, indeed a job requirement, to lead this reform effort and convert it into a going-to-the-moon mission…into a national movement for innovating who we are and how we care for one another. Let’s see your vision…and enlist the majority of us who want reform to happen…to make that vision a reality.