Harry and Louise are supposed to represent the typical racially generic middle class American couple. They originally appeared back in the early nineties in a commercial designed to help destroy the 1994 healthcare plan by the Clinton administration and headed by Hillary Clinton. Harry and Louise are supposed to be the average American’s middle aged next door neighbors, coworkers, friends, and etcetera. We are supposed to be able to relate to this couple. Their concerns are our concerns.
The Harry and Louise commercials were developed by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), a health insurance industry lobbying group, who spent seventeen million dollars in its battle to persuade the public that passage the Clinton’s version of universal healthcare would have been devastating for the country under bogus claims that people would lose their choice of doctors, that insurance would become so expensive employers would drop it, and every doomsday scenario applicable and inapplicable.
However, this time around, instead of trying to derail a national health reform plan, the new Harry and Louise commercials and their developers are promoting health insurance coverage for the more millions of uninsured Americans. The new advertisements find Harry and Louise’s in their kitchen just like the first time around. The change of heart has not been lost on the majority of health policy pundits. During the Clinton’s attempt at healthcare reform, the Health Insurance Association of America was very much aligned with conservatives and Republicans’ interests. This time around, the health insurance lobbying group appears to be more aligned with Democrats perspectives.
Like the actors who portray Harry and Louise the health insurance lobby doesn’t operate with any sense of what’s best for the community’s interest. The only thing that matters is the basic, what’s in it for me. The only reason Harry and Louise have changed their tune is that the person paying them, the HIAA, wants to hear them sing a different song. It’s in Harry and Louise’s best interest to do anything their employers wants them to do despite whatever their conscience may say. That is, of course, assuming that they have a conscience in the first place.
The HIAA worked hard to defeat any universal healthcare plan at work in the early nineties. Instead of bringing their concerns to the table in order to be debated and addressed, this organization played on people’s fears that our demise was imminent if we did anything to make change. Like a contestant on an old Let’s Make A Deal episode we made a collective choice to keep our booby prize instead of taking a chance that something better might be behind door number one, two, or three. At that time, the costs were manageable. While premiums may have already been rising to the stratosphere, there were still manageable. And when people made claims, there was still a reasonable expectation that the insurance company would pay the majority, if not all, of any healthcare expenses.
These days filing a claim with a health insurance company is like playing Russian roulette. All kinds of preexisting conditions can disqualify a claim from being honored. Filing a claim for a head injury? There better not be any documented proof that you took an aspirin in your lifetime. People are finally beginning to wake up and see what we have come to and where we’re headed. The HIAA knows that the winds of change are blowing and they are blowing hard. And even though that wind is blowing against an immovable force of people who have a lot to gain by keeping things exactly the way they are, it is only a matter of time before more of us are negatively impacted by industry practices.
Like Harry and Louise the HIAA knows what tune it needs to sing if it wants to continue to earn a profit. Now that conservatives and the Republicans don’t look as formidable as they once did the insurance lobby finds it more advantageous to hedge its bets by playing both sides of the issue. Promote the idea that the lobby wants to help with reform that consist of timid, little steps. But at the same time, continue to consist of a bunch of companies that stand to remain hugely profitable if things remain stagnant. It looks like a no lose proposition.
Hopefully looks can be deceiving. Hopefully people are looking at Harry and Louise and are seeing nothing but a couple of actors who may not care if healthcare reform passes. Hopefully people will see that the HIAA’s change of heart might fit the same category. Yes they say we need healthcare reform. But the type of reform this lobby of the insurance company is pushing is nothing more than smoke and mirrors designed to make the type of change that keeps our healthcare system the same.