I don’t normally use my blog for discussion about politics, but the healthcare debate has forced my hand. Our leaders in government and many of those in the healthcare industry are missing a huge point.

First, I am convinced that layering greater complexity over a broken system will doom us long term. The current proposals don’t actually fix the system. For an interesting analysis from someone who should, and does, know about such things, check out Stephen Hyde’s blog.

Second, what will help to fix the system is something many internal communicators have called for for years: more and better information. This must be coupled with utter consumer control over decisions – ownership of my plan and my health outcomes. Obviously, this requires taking management out of the hands of employers and putting the onus on individuals. There still needs to be a safety net for those who need and desire coverage but cannot afford it, but why should my small business help to cover the cost of someone who would rather pay for cable TV?

Most importantly, empowering the consumer demands access to the very comparative data I have access to when buying a home, a car, a TV, or any other purchase. That’s right. There isn’t a single other thing we pay for (and believe me, as a small business, we pay through the nose for healthcare) that we can’t shop.

Ever try to shop for physical therapy or a CT scan? Damn near impossible. And I consider myself very savvy. The insurance company doesn’t want to reveal it’s contracted rate and the provider says “talk to your insurer.”

I just bid out my roof repair after our house was struck by lightning. All the bidders were quite happy to share all the details with me to help me make my decision. I’m pretty sure that getting affordable, qualified medical care is more important than which ridgecap is used on my roof. Yet, I have lots more information about the ridgecap!

There are two snaggly issues about giving the consumer so much power and control. One, “most people can’t understand healthcare.” Spoken by a colleague recently. Let’s give ourselves, and everyone else, a little credit. I’m not a home builder or auto engineer or licensed roofer, but I can handle those decisions. As with anything, it’s about communicating the right information in the right way at the right time. It definitely would make the communication requirements more strategic. And, how about more dialog? Instead of flinging a bunch of incomprehensible mumbo jumbo at people once a year during enrollment, what if managing our health became an ongoing dialog?

Which leads me to the other thorny issue: culturally, Americans don’t like to be bothered with taking responsibility for their own health, and they sure aren’t comfortable talking about their health issues with others. We’ve allowed the government and employers to take care OF us for decades. We have got to become more transparent, open and responsible. Health is each individual’s responsibility, and we each can make good decisions if we have the right information.

So, we’re talking about a massive culture change, putting consumers in charge. People voting with their dollars. We’re also talking about a significant communication commitment – one I believe the profession is primed for.

What do you think would happen to costs, frivolous technology and unnecessary tests in such a competitive and information rich environment?