This blog has remained mostly ambivalent toward the "any willing provider" initiative that supporters hope to put on next fall's ballot. Up until last week, I hadn't heard anything about it outside of this little chunk of the blogosphere, either.
But supporters of the measure, which would prohibit insurers from placing network-style restrictions on their customers' choices of providers, have spent most of the last five business days staked out just outside my office. I've had a couple of conversations with the petitioners, and yet I'm still not that much clearer on what exactly should compel me to place my signature on the petition, let alone vote for the initiative in November 2014.
The petitioners' two-second tagline (well, one of them, at least ...) works alright: "Do you want the freedom to choose your own health care provider?" It talks about freedom ... that's a good thing; hard to say "No" to freedom. It asks me a question, which gets me at least a little closer to feeling compelled to respond and getting hooked into the hard sell on the petition. Yeah, not bad.
However, partway through their multi-day petition drive, the tagline changed to: "Are you a registered South Dakota voter?" This is less compelling; it doesn't give me any idea what these people are talking about, and doesn't encourage me or my fellow men-and-women-about-campus to engage on any bigger level than, "Yeah, I'm a registered South Dakota voter. What's it to ya?!"
Now, I can understand what might have inspired this change in tactic. The petitioner's spot outside my office is on the campus of South Dakota's largest institution of higher learning (but remember, Dear Readers, that everything I write on this blog is merely my own opinion, not affiliated in any way with my employer), so they're likely to run into a bunch of out-of-state students and perhaps even more 18- and 19-year-olds who haven't yet had a big national election to get them eager to register to vote. Still, it seems like leading off with the technical question loses the petitioners momentum on any case they'd like to make.
Based on my personal interaction, they also need a little more momentum if they're going to make the case and get my signature. To the "Are you a registered South Dakota voter?" question, I have to currently answer "No," as my change of registration paperwork still needs to get processed from my move home to South Dakota from Ohio this summer (and I really don't want to be a petition signer who gives anyone room to challenge the work of signature collectors down the line). When I explained my situation and asked for more information to help me make a decision once I am good to go, voter-registration-wise, however, all I got was the half-sheet of basic explanation crafted by the Attorney General. No offense to Marty Jackley, but that's not exactly the kind of writing that's going to get me jazzed up to come back and find a petition to sign once Brookings County gets me entered on the voter rolls.
Now, if these petition gatherers weren't interested in telling me why I should care as much about "any willing provider" as they do, they certainly weren't interested in hearing my feedback on running a signature drive. So, instead, I throw out these quick tips in case they—or primary sponsors Drs. Peter Looby, Stephen Eckrich, and Paul Cink—happen to be Madville Times readers:
- Choose the right audience — I'm not sure that college students are the best folks to be turning to when it comes to complex health insurance policy. Few of them are giving much thought to health crises, and with the Affordable Care Act, most of them can still be on their parents' plans anyway. I know the concentration of over 10,000 engaged young people in one geographic location is tempting, but what good is it if nobody's prone to hear or care about your message? (Now, if the minimum wage petition folks are reading this, college kids might be EXACTLY the audience you want to talk to ... why haven't I seen YOU on campus yet?!?)
- Let's get ready to register!! — If you simply must begin by asking about registration status, at least be ready to excitedly get folks registered on the spot. I can't say for certain that the petitioners didn't have voter registration cards with them because I made it clear pretty quickly that I didn't need one, but I also didn't see much other than petitions on their handy-dandy clipboards. If you don't have voter registration cards now, get some before you go out again!
- Have three sizes of speeches ready — Petitioners should be ready to spout the small (2-5 seconds), medium (10-15 seconds), and large (30 seconds-1 minute) versions of their stump speech without hesitation. Small gets people's attention, medium makes them stop to think, and large gets them the information once they're listening; those three pieces should be as quick and natural as the gait of the people (mostly) walking past. This group of petitioners seemed to be ready with just the one size. Once I stopped, I needed more—and needed it to catch me right when my attention was caught—to be convinced.
Now, to be fair, these folks still have 11 calendar days between now and the November 4 deadline for initiative petitions (which must be submitted one year in advance of the November 4, 2014, general election). Who knows? They might even have all the signatures they need.
Based on their efforts in the last week, however, my signature isn't likely to be one of them.