How to talk about Obamacare during the holidays

It is the holiday season, a time when many families hold celebrations or simply gather to exchange gifts and spend time together. For many of us, that means we’re going to be with family members who have different political views than we do.

A Holiday Guide to Talking about ObamacareThat means health care advocates may have to promote and defend the Affordable Care Act over a roast and mashed potatoes. Here are some tips on talking about Obamacare with your loved ones and helping you engage in some of the debates about the law.

1. Find Common Ground

Your best bet is to look for points on which you can agree with your family. Even with issues on which you disagree, people with different opinions can find common ground. Here are a few topics that you can use to build bridges:

  • Health care is too expensive. Everyone agrees with that. The ACA is the first law in 50 years to actively address rising costs in health care.
  • We can’t just send people to emergency rooms. Sending uninsured people to emergency rooms for primary care is the costliest way to treat them. The tab for their treatment is ultimately picked up by people with insurance. The ACA will bring an end to this.
  • Pre-existing condition exclusions. Everyone is tired of insurance company denials. The ACA bans companies from discriminating against people because of a pre-existing medical condition. You can talk about how kids with cancer wouldn’t be able to get any coverage and explain that vast numbers of people, including those in your own family, have some sort of pre-existing condition that would have prevented them from getting coverage before the ACA.
  • Most people already have health insurance. Because so many folks already have coverage through a job or through Medicare or Medicaid (a.k.a. the government), most people aren’t going to be affected by the requirement that everyone buy health insurance if they can afford it. Folks who don’t have insurance now will be able to get coverage in two ways: tax credits to help pay premiums for insurance purchased through online marketplaces called “exchanges” (the subsidies will make private insurance more affordable for the first time ever) or enrollment in an expanded Medicaid program.

From Lifehacker’s The Guidelines for a Rational Political Discussion with Friends and Family:

When you find that common ground in the discussion, latch onto it and talk about it as long as possible. Even if you disagree on specifics, this is a great time to boost each other’s egos to ensure the rest of the conversation goes in a civil manner. Just be careful how you apply this common ground and don’t make it all about yourself.

2. Point out to them how the law helps you.

Think about your personal experience. How does Obamacare affect you and your family? Even relatives who don’t like the law might give it a second look when they see how it helps someone they know and love.

Here are ways that you and your family may benefit directly from the health care law:

  • You’ll have peace of mind from knowing that no pre-existing condition will prevent you or your family from obtaining care. Until the law takes full effect, people can be denied coverage or be required to pay higher premiums because of things like high blood pressure and diabetes. As a result, some survivors of cancer and a host of other medical conditions can simply not get affordable coverage.
  • Insurance now must cover contraception, well-woman visits, mammograms, and cancer screenings, and those can save an individual more than $1,000 a year, protect women from preventable illnesses and enable family planning.
  • Young adults at the beginning of their careers can enroll in a parent’s insurance plan.
  • Seniors are going to save money and be able to follow doctors orders as the so-called “donut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug plan gets smaller and smaller. Millions of seniors are already saving significant sums of money thanks to drug discounts mandated by the law.
  • Kids with illnesses will be treated and families won’t go broke thanks to the end of lifetime and annual limits on children’s health insurance payments.
  • Enrollees in all kinds of health plans are accessing no-cost preventive benefits that will keep them healthier and identify medical issues before they develop into emergency situations.

3. Know the facts and what the law is already doing.

Some of your relatives may have unfounded concerns because they’ve been exposed to rampant misinformation about Obamacare. Others may have understandable questions about the insurance requirement (individual responsibility provision) or how this affects their coverage at work.

For advice on talking about specifics of the law, you can download an excellent fact sheet from Doctors for America. Click on the image at right or download a printable PDF here and keep it in your pocket or download it to your smart phone.

Health care reform is already having a huge positive impact on millions of people. Some of the many provisions that are saving lives include:

  • Kids can no longer be denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health insurance through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan until 2014, when insurers will no longer be able to reject anyone for coverage.
  • About 5.8 million seniors on Medicare have saved $5.1 billion on prescription drugs since the law was passed in 2010, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Insurance plans now provide no-cost preventive care and health screenings.

No one wants this holiday season to be remembered as “Oh, THAT year.” Try to remember to be polite, engage in active listening, and don’t let the conversation degenerate into attacks on anyone’s personal character.

5. Know when to move on.

Sometimes no amount of good information will change people’s minds, and it’s best to change the subject. No matter what you say, some people will still believe in death panels, assume Obamacare is socialism or think the president was born in Kenya. All of these ideas and many more have been thoroughly debunked, but some people are still parroting the talking points of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. You might even share a chromosome or two with them.

If you conclude that the fact-based reality in which you live is at odds with a relative’s hyperpartisan mythology, it might be time to disengage.

WikiHow has a great primer with video on how to change the subject. You can also use the FORD technique for making small talk into a conversation on a different topic. FORD is an acronym that stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams, and can be used to engage just about anyone in conversation.

Here’s wishing you a healthy and peaceful holiday season.