KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Advocates Are Back With Real Health Care Stories

Thousands of people are "now telling their stories on videos, ads and Web sites on both sides of the health care debate," The Associated Press reports. Proponents and "foes of expanding government-run health care" are posting "stories of real people on YouTube and in advertisements," as well as building up banks of the stories online. "Voters and lawmakers may be moved by the stories or turned off by what they see as emotional pandering. But in the weeks to come, the airwaves and blogosphere are sure to be populated by real people telling what happened to them when they got sick." For example, "Obama's political operation, Organizing for America, put up a Web site last week where people can post their own health care tales and read the stories of others."

But "what's lost in the storytelling is policy nuance and the difficult question of how to finance an expansion of health coverage, said health economist Devon Herrick of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, a research group that favors private solutions over government involvement. The real-people tactic, whether used by the left or the right, can distract from tough debate, he said." Families USA started its story bank before the 1993 health care debates, but "the real stories could not compete with doubts raised by a fictional couple, Harry and Louise, who at a kitchen table asked questions about the Clinton plan in ads financed by the health insurance industry. This time, it will be different, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. 'I ultimately believe real stories are more effective than using actors in some dramatization,' he said. This week, Families USA and the drug lobby group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign using real people, including business owners" (Johnson, 7/3).

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