My name is Jasmine Burnett and I have joined the Raising Women’s Voices team in NYC this week as a part-time community organizer building support for a NYS Health Exchange. My work with RWV-NY has been made possible by grants from the Ms. Foundation for Women and Health Care for All NY. My background is in reproductive justice organizing, as lead organizer for SisterSong NYC/Trust Black Women. I was asked to provide some tips on how to talk about state health exchanges in a way that I understand it which for me means, simple and easy to understand.
Policy is not my favorite topic. I find any way to avoid it. But if the political is personal, then I better take my understanding of politics and policy personally. The current war on women’s rights and women’s health puts policy at our doorstep, in our homes and our communities. Here are some quick and easy tips that have been successful for me in talking about health reform to my community, and might help you.
It is important to become informed about the discussion you are trying to get your community engaged in. The fact sheets provided by Raising Women’s Voices offer the hard facts about the policies. The RWV conference calls can help you tease out the information that’s relevant to the communities you serve and help you identify examples to make your messaging clear. You can also ask questions to clarify things you and your constituents might find confusing.
Use storytelling in everyday language
Part of engaging others in health care reform discussions is being able to explain policy in everyday language. While we typically call the exchange a “marketplace” where individuals can buy affordable health insurance, I like to use the analogy of Walmart.
Walmart buys merchandise in bulk and passes the savings onto the shopper. Ideally, exchanges will work the same way. Exchanges could serve as “active purchasers” of health coverage for everyone who needs it and make sure the plans offered are affordable and have good quality.
Some people, though, choose not to shop at Walmart because of concerns about its employment practices or conditions in particular stores and neighborhoods. With the health insurance exchange, we won’t have another store to shop in for quality, affordable health coverage. That is why we will need to hold our state exchange accountable for using ethical standards in determining what kind of health coverage and which health plans are in the best interest of our communities.
Fortunately, our state health exchanges will not be operated by private businesses like Walmart. In most states, the health exchanges will be operated by public authorities or state agencies. This means the people who are running our exchanges must take into account the public interest when making decisions about our health coverage. We need to make sure these exchange board members do not have conflicts of interest, such as working for the same health insurance companies that want to sell us coverage.
The exchange also must work to address long-standing health disparities based on race, ethnicity, gender, primary language, sexual orientation and disability. That is why our exchange board members and the members of any advisory boards that are created must be diverse, and represent the interests of all our communities.
Appeal to your visual learners
Reading content through emails or documents can be boring sometimes. Seeing the same font over and over on a page is like listening to someone speak monotone about policy. Not fun. Spice it up with fun colors, fonts and images on a PowerPoint presentation!
These 3 quick tips will have you on your way to making policy conversational, fun and relevant. If you would like more information and tips, reach out at: jasmine[at]raisingwomensvoices[dot]net.