What Women Want – Healthcare Version

Published October 27, 2014

Some time ago I recall making that point to some friends in the health policy community that politically-viable major health care reform that is based on markets instead of central planning would face a fairly tough test – persuading women, often the key decisionmakers in families when it comes to health decisions and a major voting block – that the medical needs of their family members would be able to be met through the market, and nobody would be left out.

One of the key statements I recall making was to the effect that if a 45-year old married women looks at her diabetic husband, her slacker 19 year-old son living in the basement, and 60 year-old uncle with a bad knee, and isn’t able to mentally go down that list and conclude “yes, I understand exactly how these people I care about plus myself will get needed healthcare without breaking the bank account in a free-market health system,” then any sort of major reform stands zero chance of passing.

I’m pretty confident a market-based plan can meet that test, but I’m also concerned that many elected officials and pro-market health policy experts don’t see the need to do so, either in the language they use or the policies they pursue. So I was very happy to read a commentary from Grace-Marie Turner, head of the Galen Institute, describing some focus groups they are conducting with women that will provide exactly the sort of information needed to meet the test I laid out. Here’s a bit of what she wrote:

Replacing the ACA: What Women Want

Those who want to repeal and replace Obamacare need to understand what Americans — and especially key demographics like politically independent women — want from health-care policy. Toward that end, my organization, the Galen Institute, is conducting a series of focus groups, each comprising about a dozen women. We begin with a 20-minute summation of our ideas and goals, during which the participants communicate their response through “dial tests” in real time. Then the presenters go behind the two-way glass to watch as the moderator elicits feedback and reactions.

Women are very open to new ideas that could give them more choices when it comes to doctors, hospitals, and care. But the vein of compassion is strong, and our solutions will be buried if we don’t show we care.

A young woman participating in the most recent focus group said she had had health insurance for her family through her husband’s job, but “because of Obamacare,” premiums soared: The policy’s price tag rose from $400 to $900. The woman decided to keep her husband and children on the policy, but to go without herself. She’s uninsured because of Obamacare, but — and here is the most important message — she said that’s okay with her if it means a child with cancer now can get treatment who otherwise couldn’t have. Most of the other women nodded in agreement.

The piece should be mandatory reading for anyone who advocates for free-market reform to the health care system, as should the information that Grace-Marie and the Galen Institute produces as a result of this project. A free-market plan that doesn’t address key concerns of crucial voting blocks may excite true-believers (like me), but is irrelevant to the discussion I expect to kick off in earnest soon over what to do to replace the failed Obamacare experiment.