A guide to being less awful

A guide to being less awful

You know who’s as unpopular as the cable company? Health insurance. My client, an association of nonprofit health plans, wanted to start new and better conversations about health care — and to do that, they needed to stop talking like health insurers and start talking like human beings. I put together this style guide to help them do just that.

To talk about this, instead of that, try this. Here’s why. For example:


yourself [the passive voice] I You are a human being, an individual, with expertise and experience. I firmly believe that the proposed legislation will benefit Minnesotans.
the sum of people affected by health policy in Minnesota they / consumers we When it comes to health care, we're all in this together. We all deserve a chance to achieve wellbeing.
an individual affected by health policy a consumer / someone you The "rhetorical you" shows that health policy affects everyone. When someone you love is sick, you don't care how much the care will cost.
the Association's member health plans we they We, the people of the Association, lead our members in advocating for wellbeing for everyone. Our member health insurance companies support this legislation, and so do we.


the State Association of Health Plans SAHP the Association Let's not add to the alphabet soup. The Association is working with community leaders to find practical solutions to rising drug prices.
[Name of Association president] president and CEO president / [no title] "CEO" conveys the mistaken impression that our president's primary role is business. [Name], who leads the Association, testified before a Senate committee …
the health insurance industry generally the industry health insurance companies "Companies" is what they are. Historically, health insurance companies have supported legislation that …
the Association's seven member health plans Association members Our state's nonprofit health insurers Their nonprofit status is what the Association's members have in common. These new figures, provided by our state's nonprofit health insurers, reveal …
health insurers in general health plans
health insurance companies We buy a health plan from a health insurance company. Health insurance companies and physicians agree that …


health insurance health coverage health insurance It's important to be honest about the limitations of "coverage." Four out of five of us get our health insurance this way.
covered services generous / rich benefit set more / less comprehensive coverage Benefits are not "rich" or "generous"; coverage is just more or less full. The coverage most people have is less comprehensive than it used to be.
an individual health insurance policy a health plan health insurance / a health insurance policy Our premiums pay for insurance, not "health." For those who bought health insurance on MNsure, … 


insurance companies' reserves margin / surplus medical reserves Reserves are set aside by law to pay for medical care. Say so. The health insurnance companies used their medical reserves to pay these unanticipated expenses.
risk sharing risk sharing asking us to pay a greater share of our medical expenses Risk isn't "shared," it's foisted. As Minnesotans are being asked to pay an increasing share of our own medical expenses, …


people who have or need health insurance customers / consumers people who have / need health insurance When it comes to health, we're people first and consumers second. We believe this change will materially benefit people who need health insurance.
people who buy health insurance in a similar way market those of us who buy health insurance this way It's only a "market" from the insurer's perspective. For people those of us who buy health insurance on our own …
people whose premiums are pooled together risk pool people in this group We don't think about our own health in terms of "risk." Medical bills were higher than expected for people in this group.
people who need similar kinds of care population someone at risk for this illness / who need this kind of care / who live in this area [be specific] "Population" is a high-level view. Speak from the ground level. For Minnesotans with late-stage cancers, these expenses can be devastating.
people undergoing medical care patients people [be specific] Nobody feels like a "patient." This policy will protect our privacy when we go to the doctor's office or the hospital.
people who decide policy policymakers state government leaders / legislators / Senator X / Rep. Y / the Commissioner [be specific] "Policymakers" is a mysterious group outside the Capitol. Be specific. After discussing the problem with the Commissioner and members of the Senate committee, …


the Triple Aim the Triple Aim bringing excellent care within reach for all of us Nobody outside the industry knows what the "Triple Aim" is. The Association believes this policy will work toward making excellent care available to everyone.
access to care access to care bringing care within reach "Access" is shorthand for ability. Non-emergency transportation brings care within reach.
affordability affordability making care less expensive These days, "affordable" is a stretch. "Less expensive" is more honest. We believe these reforms will help make care less expensive.
cost cost of care expense "Cost" is a business word. "Expense" is what we feel. Health insurance is so expensive because health care is so expensive.
quality quality excellence / the best possible care / the best care in the nation We have no way to assess the "quality" of our care. But we know "excellence" when we feel it. We believe the nation's best care should be within reach for everyone in Minnesota.
satisfaction patient satisfaction good relationships / being treated with dignity, respect and humanity "Satisfaction" doesn't capture the moral weight of our interactions with health care. Simplifying this process has allowed people to develop better relationships with their doctors.
payers payers health insurance companies / government programs [etc.] "Payers" do much more than just pay. When the state negotiates with health insurance companies, …
providers providers doctors / hospitals / medical professionals [name them] "Providers" are not the only ones who provide. Hospitals and clinics need better ways of coordinating the care they provide.
what the Association works to influence policy problem-solving / guidelines / laws "Policy" and "legislation" are technical terms that polarize opinion. The proposed law will solve a real problem for those of us who need help getting to the doctor.