This past weekend, my little brother had his 12th birthday party. My family came over and it was a good chance to catch up with some aunts, uncles and cousins I hadn't seen in a few months. In any event, none of them are particularly political, but they all know I'm obsessed with politics... so I always get to hear about their latest thoughts coming from the perspective of an average, apolitical voter.
In any event, I had an extraordinarily interesting conversation with a particular non-political and nonpartisan aunt. Because this election is so historical and different than in the past, she actually watched Obama's speech. I'm sure she'll watch McCain's, too. Out of all the things Obama said and did, the one thing that really grabbed her was his discussion about his mother and health care.
Obama's mother had to fight and bicker with her health insurance company every step of the way to get her treatment for cancer. That's something millions of Americans can relate to, no matter the party ID or voter frequency, my aunt included. My uncle, her husband, had to get shoulder surgery a few years ago. Everything seemed to go well and, for several months, it seemed like he went through a full recovery.
Another few months, though, and the story changed. Soon, his shoulder started to be painful. Soon after that, he had difficulty moving it. It got to the point where he couldn't raise his arm at all.
In a normal health care system, doctors would aggressively try to solve the problem. Not here. It's not the doctors, that's for sure - they want to make good decisions for their patients. It's good for business. It's because of the health insurance company they had.
The startling thing is they had what they thought was good health insurance - my uncle, like many in my family, is a teacher. With a union. With bargaining power. Compared to most of America, my uncle's insurance is the Ritz Carlton of HMOs. You'd think getting treatment would be easy. You'd think wrong. Like Obama's mother, my aunt and uncle had to fight every step of the way to get treatment. After months and months of tests and doctor visits, each one a battle to even get (while watching his arm become more painful and useless), my uncle finally figured out what the problem was. He had a bacteria growing, very likely from his previous surgery.
All my uncle wanted to do was get it fixed, but the insurance company bickered and fought for months before they finally succumbed and allowed my uncle to get the surgery. This is the kind of story that Obama's tapped into in the lives of Americans everywhere. It's powerful because it's happening to all sorts of people, young and old, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat - and everything in between. It's even happening to people like my uncle, who has been paying through the nose for what he thought was good insurance. Other people may be attracted to different positions - the environment, education, etc., but I think health care is one of the precious few issues that can turn a Republican voter blue. I expect a lot of voters to swing Obama's way come November - and hundreds of thousands of them will do so because they want health care they can count on.