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How Southwest Would Reform Healthcare

Let’s throw politics aside, at least for a minute. I think the problem with Heathcare Reform is in its branding. 9N863UN79SNR They have a classic brand problem.

The problem is how politicians have branded the issue. What Democrats want is healthcare reform. What Republicans want is, well, not the Democrats plan. They want something that costs a lot less.

What about the people? Let’s call them the “customers” for this exercise. I find they don’t care half as much about “reform” as they do about “cost.” Customers want lower healthcare costs, and they want it now. Most Americans would take that any way they could. Consumers can’t wrap their brains around today’s healthcare system, let alone figuring out a new one that, quite frankly, no one can figure out. And that won’t start for 1-3 years. Consumers want what they want now!

A good brand benefits study would have shown this.

Politicians should take a lesson from Nike, Coca Cola, and Apple. Better yet, let’s take a lesson from Southwest Airlines. Politicians need to know it’s not about them—it’s about the customers. They also need to learn the difference between “wants” and “needs”. Wants trump needs 9 out of 10 times, because wants are based on emotion, not logic. If you can marketing to both needs and wants, it’s a guaranteed winner.

Southwest did the research on short hop travel. They found that passengers needed low fares. They wanted lots of flights. And in the grand scheme of things, passengers didn’t want to pay for luxuries like assigned seats, meals, movies, and fancy flight attendant uniforms.

So what about Americans as customers of healthcare? They want to be healthy. They want a safety net. They need affordable rates. They don’t want or need anything that confuses them more.

Here’s proof. I was recently in a discussion where people were comparing experiences with hospital stays—appendicitis, heart attacks, respiratory ailments. The people in the discussion were professionals…doctors, lawyers, and MBAs. Each and every person had a recent experience with a hospital. Each of us got a copy of a bill for thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. And not one of us understood anything about the bills. How does a 24 hour stay in a hospital cost $100,000? How will I ever pay for it? How does the hospital write down 85% of the cost? How does anyone figure any of this out?

Customers can’t figure it out. They don’t get it it. They just want to get better. They also don’t want to go into debt to stay healthy. They  just care that they pay lower premiums and a low deductible.

Think of it like Southwest. Figure out what people will pay for, and what they won’t. Strip out the fluff. Appeal to their wants, and needs (not your own), and they’ll line up behind you.

Who knows, if Southwest was running healthcare, we’d all line up with little cards in our hand. But I bet we’d get treated faster!

Healthcare Reform should die. Not as a concept, but as a name. A smart politician should come out with a new Healthcare Cost Reduction Plan, and people would rally behind it.

Politicians need to stop thinking like politicians, and thinking more like Southwest.

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