How to Talk to Your Family about the Affordable Care Act over the Holidays

Family dinnerFamily holiday dinners can be wonderful, warm times to bond, or they can devolve into intense full-contact debates. We’ve all been at the table when Uncle Steve wants to debate politics or Cousin Liz is in the mood to talk about religion. A little friendly debate over crescent rolls can bring a family closer together and enlighten people, or it can make for a really uncomfortable holiday. 

This year, I’m predicting the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be a hot-button topic as relatives spar over the universal mandate, death panels, and whether or not Grandma’s Medicare will be rationed. (Hint: it won’t be.) Research shows that about half of uninsured people who will benefit from the ACA are really in the dark about healthcare reform; some of them are probably going to be sitting around the table with you. We would like to remind our readers to take advantage of this great opportunity to enlighten (in a positive, respectful way) family and friends on the many ways the ACA is helping Americans get affordable healthcare. Once people know about the many benefits of the ACA, they are far more likely to support it.  

Here are a few tips to make sure this holiday season doesn’t end in frustration for anyone.

1.     Most importantly, take ownership of the ACA. You like this legislation—tell people why!

I know I’ll be telling my own family how thrilled I was that my young adult sisters and I could remain on my parents’ very good insurance (along with 2.5 million other young Americans) rather than purchase overpriced, low-quality plans on our own before being eligible for employer-provided insurance.  

Or maybe you have diabetes and are looking forward to the day (January 1, 2014) you won’t be denied the ability to purchase insurance for your preexisting condition, or you would like to provide health insurance to maintain your best employees and are excited about the tax credits you will receive. Whatever part of the ACA you are excited about, share it with your family over dinner. Positive stories create positive impressions of the law.

2.     Know what you’re talking about. Have reliable information ready to refute your dad’s claim that small businesses will be going under in droves or your sister’s statement that sick people won’t be readmitted to the hospital. We suggest using the official website, The Kaiser Family Foundation, and the new interactive game “Thanks Obamacare!”  for helpful facts. Misinformation absolutely will not help the cause of broadening public support for the ACA. 

3.     Mention the most popular provisions of the ACA, like closing the Medicare donut hole and requiring health insurance companies to sell policies to all people (even people with preexisting conditions); research shows that most Americans feel “very favorable” about these provisions.

4.     Don’t be insulting. Your aunt’s unwavering stance on death panels may make you twitch with anger, but don’t ever attack her personally. She’s still your family and you still have to finish the evening with her. Address her misinformation calmly and with facts rather than focusing on her propensity for exaggeration or gullibility.      

5.     Call a truce if the discussion gets intense. Don’t make discussing the ACA a battle during your dinner. Agree to continue the discussion via an email chain, where you can include citations to reliable information, and then everyone can focus on enjoying dessert and family. 

Of course, this advice doesn’t just apply to holiday dinners—everyone who supports the ACA has an important job to do in confronting misinformation that they hear about the law and in spreading the word about its positive aspects. As you do this, keep a mental note of the most outrageous or most prevalent misinformation you hear and share it with us via blog comments or email. We would love to know more about what we are up against!


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