Let the games begin!

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No, not next summer's Olympic Games scheduled in Beijing from September 6 through the 17, but, the games that are beginning now, which will last until election day 2008, and possibly well beyond that.

These games include posturing, posing, poising, pretending, platforming and protesting (to mention just the p's) that any number of political candidates will be doing over the next 12 months as they stomp and stammer across this country to drum up votes for yet another political promise.
You might want to think of our industry as having ringside seats, or you might want to think of all of us individually as being part of the judging; either way, we have to stay alert and weigh in on this healthy and important debate—healthcare in America. We need to remain vigilant and active, involved and opinionated.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, healthcare issues rank second behind Iraq and more than two times ahead of the second most important domestic issue, the economy.

Is this because Baby Boomers have begun turning 60 years old and are demanding more, better healthcare?

Or is it because there are too many increases and too many shortages?

Whatever the reasons for the attention, more wannabe politicians are going to be out there participating in these “games” whether they are in shape or not, and whether they have trained hard or not.

As it all comes into focus in the next year or so and we begin to winnow the field of serious contenders, it does appear that two major ideas will dominate (with an almost endless array of variations of the two, depending on who is speaking): universal health coverage with controlled costs (if at all possible) or expanded coverage with the least amount of government involvement as humanly possible.

Of course, the games go on and remain heated because of concerns and issues that have yet to be adequately dealt with.

Ours is an industry fraught with the need for more answers about: costs and coverage, senior and women's health, liability and recalls, the uninsured and Medicare, available medications and the donut hole. Plus, there are any number of personal agenda items that need addressing, from public health concerns to HIV/AIDS, from breast cancer to cancer concerns in general, and from Alzheimer's to public education.

More and more, politicians on the left and right sides of the aisle are presenting plans and policy ideas to the public, as are other government officials, in order that we take them more seriously. (Since several of the major candidates have not done so yet, you can bet they will be putting out major healthcare policy ideas shortly.)

We must be careful not to get caught up in the hype; to not make this simply a rhetorical contest. But for all of us working in or with the healthcare industry, we cannot be passive and allow others to control the judging. We too need to participate as intelligently and (dis)passionately as best we can.

What will prevail? Optimism or pessimism? Cynicism or nihilism? Whatever, whichever, a great deal is at stake because these games will go well beyond next year's Olympic Games and even next year's presidential elections.

Michael Metelenis is the chief creative officer at Centron

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