I know it’s been around for a while, but Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield’s TV commercial that exhorts us to “live fearless” still grabs my attention. The clear, sincere voice of a child asking me when I last felt free from worry, fear and uncertainty cuts through the other ads on television and makes me look up or even walk back into the room to watch.
As it happens, I’m not currently a customer of ABCBS; my family’s best health insurance option right now is with a different company through my husband’s employer. So the Live Fearless ad hasn’t worked on me in the direct way that turns a viewer into a buyer of the product advertised. And, honestly, I don’t think it was designed to sell those of us who have always enjoyed employer-sponsored health insurance.
This is an Opinion
Instead, it works on me on a different level, reminding me of just how important health insurance is to my life and to my family. And it does it without ever mentioning health insurance. It talks about compassion, security, power, freedom. And it does it so well that it makes me temporarily forget that my personal experience with health insurance over the past 30 years has been sticker shock followed by maddening phone calls conveying conflicting information, nonsensical explanations and an almost irresistible urge to stick a knife in my eye.
Any ad that can overcome such negative personal experience is a great ad, right? But it’s only a great ad because there is also fundamental truth in the message that responsible adults are in a world of worry, fear and uncertainty if our families don’t have health insurance. The risk of not being able to access the kind of medical services that we know we could need at any moment is just too great.
That’s why I continue to be amazed by folks for whom ideology is more important than human beings — the folks who continue to rail against the health care reforms that have brought the peace of mind that health insurance provides to people who can’t afford it on their own.
Friends, I am wide open to a better way of bringing health insurance to all Americans. I still wish — although I’m losing hope — that the employer mandate that has always been my biggest disappointment with the Affordable Care Act could be jettisoned completely.
But unless we replace the ACA with a brilliant idea that its opponents have thus far kept shrouded in secrecy, getting rid of Obamacare will mean one thing: Millions of Americans — including 200,000 of our neighbors here in Arkansas — will go back to being uninsured, a lifestyle that I wouldn’t tolerate for myself and my family for a single day.
“Many of your neighbors have LOST their health insurance because of this foolishness,” a longtime friend informed me on Facebook. Have they? I would dearly love to see some statistics on the number of Arkansans who became uninsured because of Obamacare — not those who were forced to change plans, but those who had insurance but now don’t.
I do appreciate that Obamacare has made insurance more expensive for some people. I don’t discount the pain of that expense (although I suspect more people would have been prepared if certain politicians hadn’t kept assuring them that the ACA would be repealed). But the number of Arkansans who have moved from the insured category to the worrisome, scary, insecure status of uninsured must have been overwhelmed by the number who have gained insurance because the total number of Arkansans who are uninsured fell by nearly half in less than a year. And the state’s hospitals have already started to feel the effect of having fewer charity patients.
I wish it weren’t necessary for the government to require, provide or subsidize health insurance. But on the morning after the midterm election, when I had the great luck of running into Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson standing all by himself outside the Embassy Suites in west Little Rock, this was the only thing I wanted to say to him: We have to preserve the private option, and you are the only man who can do it.
If Arkansas makes an ideological show of rejecting the federal government’s Medicaid expansion money, lots of bad things will happen. Hospitals will suffer, the state budget will suffer, hopes of targeted tax relief will wither. But the worst thing will be the hundreds of thousands of Arkansans who will go back to living fearfully.
Email Editor Gwen Moritz at GMoritz@ABPG.com.