Health Care Reform was Framed

What are the facts of the health care debate?

With all the coverage we should know by now. But most of what we know is government takeover, death panels, and bureaucrats rationing care. Of course, there has been the Democratic effort to refute this as falsifying the facts. And reality, in my opinion, is that the facts have been falsified.
But reality, and the facts, are not what is driving the debate.
Perception is.

Whatever your political persuasion, it is persuasion and how the facts are framed that is determining voters perception. The efforts of both sides are to frame the issue. Our purpose is to look at how frames determine decisions.
Imagine for a moment an actual frame around a picture. Not any frame but an ornate expensive frame. That picture will seem more significant and of more value.
Now imagine the picture sitting in the Museum of Modern Art. This picture is now important indeed, and deserves commentary and  appreciation. If however, we took that picture and placed it on a street vendors table as if it were a poster or copy, it would now have been ‘framed’ to seem cheaper and certainly less expensive. The frame determines how we perceive the facts.
Some frames are physical, but most of what we will deal with are mental constructs. Let’s consider how different frames might play out.
The Democratic argument may be valid, that costs will be doubling in a few years, that people are already being denied service and that rationing is occurring etc. However, Death panels for grandma, in contrast, is certainly more vivid (even if not true). Nevertheless, research shows that vivid arguments win more often over valid arguments. And certainly, the Republicans have mobilized their troops better for now around their framing of the argument. We are beginning to see a shift as President Obama frames the argument more powerfully and vividly. Whoever wins the framing war wins the perception game.
It may be sad that democracy and progress may be determined by bungling frames rather than the truth and what is good for the people. Dissent is part of our American tradition and it is good for us to argue Healthcare reform in the marketplace of ideas.
The Democrats could have framed the issue as America’s Competitive Health plan. Another frame they can still use is the Patient-Doctor Choice Plan, or better still, The Patient Care program. We can shorten these to be Competition, Choice or Patient Care program.  Any of these are far better than the public option or even single payer. It would be hard to argue against The Competition Plan. It’s American to value competition. Moderates couldn’t be accused of socialism. This could combat the  socialism claim of every argument by Republicans. Who would be against driving down costs with America’s Competitive Health Plan.
Or consider the Patient Care program vs. The Insurance Industry Profiting program.
Every decision is for the patient rather than by an industry bureaucrat and their profit.
This really is a framing battle going on. You be the judge.
Examining the facts of the cost of healthcare through the frame of Patient Care will influence how you interpret the facts. Money for patients or money for industry profits. The same is true for, ‘the Government is bad frame’ that Republicans use to run all their information through. As Americans we have a cultural disposition to not trust the government, this sentiment goes back to the American Revolution. So that frame works. These aren’t complex frames. They are quick to understand, which makes these frames even more powerful.
From a framing and influence strategy, we must always endeavor to portray the truth, while understanding the mindsets of the people we are speaking with. What I have stated, in Advantage-Makers is to ‘Make your valid argument vivid.’Your frames should be easy to understand, simple to think about, and fast to grasp.
The most vivid frame most often wins the argument. A powerful frame inoculates you against the other sides argument. For instance, Doctor-Patient Choice vs. Private Insurance Company determines your medical care. As Americans we prefer choice. When the private insurance company program is being pushed, you can simply say I prefer my physician and I choosing what’s right for me rather than the insurance company deciding. This is a pre-inoculation to equip your side for the counter argument that is coming.  On an issue as contentious and important as the healthcare debate, framing is pivotal. In the midst of the noise and falsehoods, the facts are viewed through the lens of the frame  you have established.
For your own business, professional or political efforts, before you argue a point, establish a frame within which you then offer the facts. As long as facts are not being falsified, this is a powerful and ethical way of increasing the likelihood of people saying yes to your presentation. (in a later blog we will discuss the degrees of latitude you have before you start alienating your listeners)
While I endeavor to see reality as it truly is, and to portray the facts accurately, whoever wins the framing battle will win the argument.