Why Are We Pitching Universal Healthcare In The Most Boring Way Possible?
Bernie, think like a marketer, not a politician.
I half-watched the Democratic debate last night and wholly cringed every time Bernie shouted excitedly about “Medicare for All” as the messiah of modern healthcare.
Is the current system a broken shitshow? Duh. Should every sick person be able to afford meds? Double duh. Should healthy people be able to view their monthly premiums without elevated blood pressure? Ideally.
But what you name the solution matters.
Old-people-care for all? That’s the best we’ve got?
You can wrap it in unicorn glitter or serve it with avocado toast, but at its very core, the word Medicare makes you think of old people.
I’m not bashing the program itself — and aspects will be debated ad nauseum— but as a headliner, Medicare for All does not get me rapturously excited for the future of healthcare in this country.
We need the Keanu Reeves of healthcare terminology. A string of words nearly impossible to hate. Words without political or mental baggage. Words with a bit more vitality to them.
Before it’s too late, let’s repackage the idea of affordable universal healthcare for every man, woman and child, into something sexier than Medicare for All.
I’m not a marketing mastermind, but I’ve had a reasonably successful career at it for 15 years. Here are some naming alternatives that would probably work better than the pre-licked vanilla ice cream the Dems are trying to sell today:
Putting the word America in there instantly makes it inclusive, patriotic, and hard for conservatives to hate. Awesome care for all Americans, plain and simple. We can debate the fine print later. Maybe Captain America can be the mascot for Americare. We already have the themed band-aids.
2. Swede-ish Care
The country of Sweden has a model healthcare system, and ours wouldn’t be an exact replica but emulate the best parts, hence Swede-ish. Sure, we could also call it Canadish or Frenchish Care, but that’s not as fun to say. Plus, putting Swedish in front of anything makes it 200% more lovable. Swedish meatballs. Swedish massage. Swedish supermodel.
3. Pro-Living Plan
Conservatives seem to care greatly about you as a fetus, but not so much about your health and wellbeing once you’re living and breathing on your own. The Pro-Living Plan puts post-birth fetuses at the forefront, ensuring they get affordable care to keep on living well past birth. Plus, we can accuse detractors of being “anti-living.”
All joking aside, the Dems and the media need to start referring to universal healthcare in more inspiring terms, or we are all destined to start buying our insulin in Canada and calling Uber instead of an ambulance.
Say whatever four-letter words you want about Republican politicians, but they understand basic marketing psychology. Democrats are in constant denial of how humans make decisions — with feelings over facts. Two basic feelings motivate us: love and fear. Republicans mainly use fear, which lights up our primitive brains more reliably than heroin.
Remember how they invented the term “death panels” to kill support for universal healthcare back in 2007? No one was going to fight fervently for something called “the public option” anyway. Snooze.
We don’t need to stoop to fear. Love is ripe for the taking. Does anyone LOVE Medicare? It’s liked by some, appreciated by others. But no one is pee-their-pants-excited. Why can’t the dawn of universal healthcare sound more like a new iPhone launch or Marvel movie premiere? The former will literally save lives.
During last night’s debate, the moderates attacked the ambition of Medicare for All as “wish-list economics” and “fairy-tale economics,” prompting Elizabeth Warren to fire back:
“I don’t understand why anyone goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States to tell us what we can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”
It’s a marvelous point. Now is the time to dream big and fight boldly for the drastic changes we desperately need. But how we communicate the dream to others is half the battle, if we intend to rally the troops.