As Congress considers options for repealing and replacing Obamacare, what kind of healthcare system would you like to see in its place?
A North Richland Hills-based insurance company has pioneered a crowdsourcing technology to give ordinary Americans a voice in the healthcare debate. If it catches on, the acronym BYOB may become synonymous with “Build Your Own Bill” — rather than the more traditional “Bring Your Own Beer.”
OurCareBill.org allows participants to create their own “bill,” formed by answering a series of questions, and then crowdsources the answers to create “America’s bill” with the most popular provisions. It also provides a way for users to tweet a bill to President Donald Trump, share it with leaders in Congress or post it on social media.
The tool is the brainchild of Michael Z. Stahl, senior vice president at HealthMarkets, one of the nation’s largest independent distributors of health insurance. Since the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — was signed into law in 2010, HealthMarkets has enrolled people into more than 2 million insurance policies.
Stahl said the #OurCare movement began about a month ago as a nonpartisan grassroots conversation about healthcare reform.
“In the end, no matter what someone tells you, American healthcare is not Obamacare. It’s not Trumpcare, it’s our care. It’s all of ours, so let’s get engaged as a country around one of the most important topics that affects everybody’s financial and physical health,” he said.
The company, with more than 3,000 agents across the country representing more than 200 insurance lines, assists individuals and families who don’t have health coverage through their employer find an insurance policy. Its also helps older Americans obtain supplemental Medicare plans and small businesses with group insurance.
To build a bill, users go to ourcarebill.org and select from about 30 potential options on an online questionnaire. They can opt to include or exclude provisions, such as whether to allow for pre-existing conditions or cover mental health, and whether federal subsidies should be provided. The process takes approximately 10 to 20 minutes.
The crowdsourcing technology, on a regular basis, collects all the provisions and places the most popular ones into America’s bill. HealthMarkets said it will periodically send that bill to Congress.
“The platform is completely nonpartisan,” Stahl said. “You build a bill with your perspective, not Mike Stahl’s perspective. It’s not HealthMarkets’ perspective.”
Since OurCareBill.org went live on Jan. 24, about 950 people have built bills, more than 8,700 people have visited the website and 8,000 people have watched the “Call to Action” video.
Linda Jones, 67, of Arlington said she built her own bill after learning about the tool from her HealthMarkets representative. Johnson, who is on Medicare, said she and her husband care for a grandson who receives his health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
“If you don’t have a health background, I think it could be over your head,” said Jones, a retired nurse who once worked at a health maintenance organization.
Jones said her bill includes coverage of pre-existing and chronic conditions and the ability to take a child to a healthcare specialist. She said she’d like to see the appeals process for denied claims more fully explained in the BYOB tool.
Stahl said he hopes to get the public involved in healthcare reform, which affects everyone.
“This is important, and we are trying to facilitate a really engaged democracy,” Stahl said. “By giving voice to the public we believe we’ll end up with a healthcare system from the healthcare law that is better than it otherwise would be.”
Kerry Curry is a North Texas freelance writer.