I had some apprehension in writing this blog post because of the proposed health care plan fiasco. It’s an inflammatory issue with misinformation, myths, and scare tactics permeating all conversations I hear on the bus, in the office, and even on television. One of the things I’ve always wondered is why don’t we have more entrepreneurs in leadership capacities in government? There are some, don’t get me wrong, but we all have to remember that the United States of America is built upon entrepreneurship and small businesses. We are a mom and pop shop, yet oftentimes it seems like we have this notion that the JPMorgan’s of the world are the primary employers. A 2006 Census report states that 99.9% of the businesses in America have under 500 employees and these small businesses provide over 54% of the jobs. I wonder what that number would be today with eBay stores, Etsy shops, the rise in home based businesses, and Corporate America trimming down their headcounts.
The reason I bring up the fact that America is a mom and pop shop is because I think the new administration should have taken an entrepreneurial-like approach when trying to push the proposed health care plan. In my opinion, there have been several failures in trying to push this new agenda, and they have been feeling the heat as a result. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Obama is a failure as a leader as Umair Haque of Harvard Business stated, but I think that if they had a mulligan, they would (and should) have done some things differently. I am deeply in favor of changing one of the most inefficient industries in America. It’s needed through plans such as what I think Obama’s plan is proposing, but hey, I’m not sure I even understand it with all of the conflicting accounts.
Some things that entrepreneurs are forced to develop when introducing a disruptive new product are:
1) Make it easy for everyone to understand what it is you’re doing. Where’s the value? And for who? And who’s going to be affected? And how much?
As an entrepreneur, you are constantly pitching your product, and you don’t have 10 minutes to explain all of the benefits you provide over the present way things are being done. It’s something I struggled with initially, but the sooner that I got to a crisp elevator pitch, the easier it has been to explain what it is I’m doing.
The biggest problem that I’ve had with this new health care plan for America is that I don’t understand what it is! I’ve read so many conflicting stories and the politicians themselves don’t seem to be on the same page. It’s complicated. It has so many layers. What is the public option? I think I understand, but the more information I get from multiple sources, the more confused I become. You hear many of politicians explain it and it becomes clear that they don’t really understand the nuances and in many ways contradict themselves. Please anchor the explanation in terms of something we already understand. Bill Mahr says that they should call it the Medicare for America.
2) Eat your own dog food. If the product is really that great, you better be using it too!
How confident would you feel about using a Macbook if everyone working for Apple used Microsoft products with Dells?
In many of the town hall clips that I’ve seen on CNN, many folks ask the politician if they’d be willing to switch to the proposed health care plan instead of the government plan which is the largest group health care policy in the country. The reason it is so beneficial to be under a group plan is that the group can better negotiate with the insurance company to get the best rates, in the same way that Wal-Mart has strong negotiating power with Proctor and Gamble. When the politician gets asked that question, I hear quite a bit of stammering and a very politically correct response that says neither yes or no. If it’s not good enough for your family, why is it good enough for the American people? Imagine how powerful it would have been to pre-empt these questions and a major part of the roll out of this proposal is to say that this plan is “Medicare for America, and the plan is so good that we’re giving up our plan to signing up with this new proposal”. I’m not saying that they should accept a plan that may be geared only towards the low-income, but if the goal is to provide a tiered group of packages, one package should reflect the fact that they are part of the program as well and figure out a way to do so.
3) Plan for how to address and pacify the needs of non-market participants.
Dealing with the non-market environment involves formulating a strategy to deal with special interest groups that are highly organized and easily mobilized. They don’t operate to your standard supply and demand market forces. In this case, we’ve seen the result of this with all of the highly publicized town hall meetings. They are very passionate about the issue and they have been given a platform for voicing their displeasure. What we must remember is that this is a very small minority of people that have been mobilized for this. The folks who have health insurance, don’t care about the issue, or in support of the new proposed health care plan are not highly organized and in my opinion, it doesn’t seem like the new administration did enough to prevent the non-market environment to take such a pivotal lead on how America feels about this issue. Why isn’t there a Twitter account to tweet fact after fact about the health care plan, so that we get a piecemeal approach to understanding such a complex issue? Why not a big social media approach that was effective for the Obama election? No 30-minute infomercial?
At the end of the day, this all comes down to branding. What probably is a perfectly good proposal was not well branded, distributed, and delivered. This isn’t just your ordinary proposal. This is something game-changing that could potentially help millions of people. Some may say that these town hall meetings are great because it’s stimulating all of this debate, but any expert strategist would tell you, you have to be the one leading those discussions, not responding to them. There are always going to be dissenters who are going to disagree with Obama for several factors, but a well executed branding strategy would have made their efforts less powerful than they were. Maybe the current administration is stretched thin, but this is too important of an opportunity to transform America and at the end of the day, I hope it does, for the better. The real thing that needs to be addressed is wellness. The most powerful medicine is preventative medicine. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day how much we spend or plan on spending on health care if we don’t attack our communities so they can be given the tools to stay out of the emergency rooms.