During the healthcare reform effort, Agency Checklists happened across an innovative and timely website using #OurCare as its domain’s tagname. #OurCare offers the public an opportunity to voice their preferences for what they believe any federal healthcare bill should include. However, #OurCare also allows its visitors to build their own bill and, by using social media, send their bill to the president and their congressional representatives.
Since an insurance agency—HealthMarkets—sponsored #OurCare, Agency Checklists was interested and talked with Mike Stahl, one of HealthMarkets Senior Vice Presidents about #OurCare.
Crowdsourcing and social media to bring the public’s opinions to Washington
#OurCare is the brainchild of Mr. Stahl. Around New Year’s Day, he was listening to newscasts laying out the Republican majority’s agenda for healthcare reform and repeal of the Affordable Care Act.[pullquote]…it’s not Obamacare, it’s not Trumpcare, it’s OurCare – Mike Stahl[/pullquote]
Like many, he wondered if all the statements by politicians about listening to the public to find out what they wanted in healthcare reform were true. He thought there might a better way to get the public’s opinions to their legislators and the President on what they wanted in any healthcare bill.
After a little thought, he came up with a nonpartisan solution: Use crowdsourcing to get the public’s preferences on healthcare reform to Congress and President Trump through social media.
After he received the go-ahead, Mr. Stahl and his team at HealthMarkets, developed and implemented the #OurCare site in just 20 days, working both nights and weekends. The #OurCare site went live on January 24, four days after President Trump’s inauguration.
Crowdsourcing is not a new technology. Most commonly, businesses or researchers use crowdsourcing to gather information from the public and then use that aggregated input to complete business-related or research-related tasks. However, the coupling of crowdsourced votes on components of pending legislation or pending legislative reform initiatives with social media directed to legislative branch and executive branch decision makers is something new and innovative.
As Mr. Stahl said in talking about #OurCare:
…our view is, no matter what anybody tells you about healthcare in America, it’s not Obamacare, it’s not Trumpcare, it’s OurCare. This is our system collectively as a society, and we need to be engaged with providing feedback as to what kind of healthcare system we really want…”
#OurCare breaks the healthcare issues into six general areas for visitors building their bill
The #OurCare site allow visitors to build their own healthcare reform bill and share it with their congressional representatives and the president through Twitter, Facebook, or email.
Building your own bill involves reviewing six general areas involved in the present Affordable Care Act debate: Basic Benefits & Coverage; Taxes, Spending & Subsidies; Managing the Health Risk Pool; Medicare; Transparency; and Other Concerns.
While the six broad areas include the topics already in the Affordable Care Act and proposed changes, the public has at the end of process the opportunity to add anything else to their unique bill.
The #OurCare site presents all the questions in each of six areas graphically with toggle switches to allow the site’s visitors to choose whether any certain provision will be “In” or “Out” of the individual bill being tailored by them.
Before marking a provision, “In” or “Out” of the visitor’s bill, the visitor can obtain more detailed information on the provision by clicking through to a neutral explanation about the provision under the present Affordable Care Act.
#OurCare has generated significant interest
Since January 24, when #OurCare became operational, almost 2,400 people have drafted their own bills on the site and over 60,000 have watched the site’s YouTube video, “#OurCare: Influence TrumpCare” With a Click on how the #OurCare process works.
Taking a page from President Trump’s Twitter playbook, Mr. Stahl and his team also used #OurCare as a Twitter hashtag proclaiming:
It’s time for the American people to express their opinions to Washington. Because, it’s not #Obamacare, it’s not #Trumpcare … it’s #OurCare!
#OurCare shows what Americans want included in a healthcare reform bill
Based on the statistics generated by #OurCare’s visitors a clearer picture of what Americans want from a healthcare bill emerges.
Seventy-five percent of the visitors to #OurCare voted for maintaining essential health benefits as part of any reform. Those required benefits for any health policy include:
- prescription drugs;
- pediatric services (i.e., dental, vision, vaccinations);
- pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care;
- transportation to emergency room;
- ambulatory patient services;
- preventive/wellness and chronic disease management;
- mental health and addiction services;
- laboratory services;
- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
Beside the essential benefits chosen by visitors, the top ten features or benefits and the percentages that #OurCare’s visitors voted for were:
- 96% wanted pre-existing conditions covered.
- 93% wanted prescription cost regulations to be part of any law reforming the system.
- 87% wanted a free market for prescriptions.
- 74% wanted to keep young adults covered on parents plan until age 26.
- 72% wanted insurers to have no premium differences based on sex.
- 71% wanted to raise he annual contribution allowed for health savings account.
- 71% wanted to maintain the ban on insurers setting lifetime limits for medical benefits.
- 66% wanted to continue the employer mandate for larger employers.
- 66% did not want to phase out the Affordable Care Act’s out-of-pocket expense provisions.
- 63% wanted to keep the Medicare surtax of 0.9% for high earners.
#OurCare site has “America’s Bill” based on crowdsourced results
Besides allowing for the public to draft their own individual bills, #OurCare has a section entitled “America’s Bill.” This page has a model bill based on the choices made by the majority of the site’s visitors addressing the six basic sections for a complete healthcare reform package, including: Basic Benefits and Coverage; Taxes, Spending and Subsidies; Managing The Health Risk Pool; Medicare; Transparency; and, Other Concerns.
The site’s America’s Bill has all the most popular provisions visitors voted to maintain. For example, most visitors chose to keep the present rule that prohibits premiums between the youngest purchasers of health insurance and the oldest purchasers to exceed a 3 to 1 ratio. Also, the votes in favor of taxes focused on high earners and specific businesses such as the Medicare investment income tax of 3.8%, the excise tax on “Cadillac” employer-sponsored health plans benefiting highly compensated workers, the medical device excise tax of 2.3%, and the 10% excise tax on indoor tanning salons.
The sites visitors also voted for some cost-reduction items that United States law does not allow. These provisions appear in America’s Bill as well, and include allowing overseas drug providers to enter the United States market as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
One item the #OurCare cannot quantify is the cost of the benefits that everybody would like mandated. Mandated benefits raise insurance company costs and those costs are passed on to all insureds as increased premiums. When healthcare reform next appears on the Congressional agenda, quantitative information such as the #OurCare site provides may help Congress and the President make the hard choices between benefits and costs.
As Mr. Stahl stated, #OurCare’s tally of the public’s choices provides, “an excellent barometer for legislators to look at…” because, “…it would be very useful for them to look and see that a lot of these things have a lot of support, a lot of them have very limited support.”
To view a copy of America’s Bill, click here: America’s Bill.
Anyone can vote for their version of what a healthcare bill should contain
Anybody can participate in #OurCare by going to www.ourcarebill.org and taking a survey about their health care needs and opinions.
HealthMarkets Insurance Agency is one of the largest independent health insurance agencies in the United States and is licensed to market and sell health insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for companies such as Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Humana, Blue and Cross Blue Shield among others. It also markets Medicare, life and supplemental insurance products from more than 200 insurance companies.
Since 2010, HealthMarkets has helped enroll Americans in more than 2 million insurance policies.