I hate to say it, but sometimes it’s easier to mislead the American public, than it is to educate them. The truth is, the thing that creates confusion about a particular topic and what seems to be the channel for all of our fears and frustrations, is nothing more than the words people use to describe that issue. And now, the subject of Health Care Reform, an incredibly polarizing topic on both sides, seems to have launched a few words into the stratosphere of rhetoric. The “terms” associated with this ongoing debate, are used over and over in the town halls and at the dinner tables of America and instead of shining light on the topic, words like private, public, subsidize and socialize continue to take on a convoluted life of their own.
In my opinion, the only purpose this rhetoric serves is to pit level-headed Americans against one another, in hopes to convince (or scare) a large-enough group of people to agree with that view. The problem with this, is those people only become more entrenched in their own opinions and what once was simply confusion on a topic has turned into a battle of “I’m right and your wrong.” Clearly, a vocabulary lesson is in order. It’s time to dial down the debate on terminology and focus on real-world definitions; it’s time to become Health Care Aware.
Here are the three most popular (and confusing) terms floating around in the Health Care Debate. I’ve broken down their meanings into manageable pieces; applicable definitions that will finally help you distinguish fact from fiction.
1) Public Option: This is a term that is very difficult to define, as it is the most highly contested point in the healthcare debate. The Public Option means different things to different people and depending on whom you ask, it is one of the most widely interpreted if not re-interpreted (and regurgitated) terms around. In fact, it seems as though this one term has managed to birth dozens of splinter concepts, ranging from “ we need universal coverage” to “we don’t want to end up like France.” The most basic definition, minus the party lines and palpable emotion, is this: The public option is a reform bill, proposed by House Democrats, which will act as a universal health care system and is intended to be somewhat modeled after Medicare. While definitions vary, the bottom line is that a public option is reform, plain and simple. Whether the result in the end will be “public” or “optional”, has yet to be determined…..

2) Death Panels: Ah, death panels. Perhaps the poster child for reform rhetoric. I think we all know how this term came to light. A once deeply embedded provision in the House’s bill, Advanced Care Planning has been likened to government-supported euthanasia. The real measure, called End-of-life-Care, provides coverage for Medicare beneficiaries who elect to meet with their medical team once every five years to discuss options for treatment if they become seriously ill. Obviously this is only a definition, as outlined in the measure, but this emotionally-fueled issue has been a hot argument for weeks now. All interpretation aside, what this means is there is a provision that allows for Medicare to pay for voluntary conversations between patients and their health care practitioners on the subject of planning for care at the end of life, whatever in the world that may be. Nothing more, nothing less.

3) Subsidy: The idea behind a subsidy is to make something more affordable, in this case, insurance coverage. The structure and coverage of a subsidy can vary widely and the policy decisions made about just who qualifies and for how much are some of the most critical components to the overall cost of reform. Subsidies are given only to those meeting specific criteria, such as those without another source of coverage or to those with low or moderate incomes, who wish to purchase insurance. Subsidies for health insurance require a fine balance between the cost of providing the “help” and where the money comes from to pay for it. Again, this is just a working definition, and as we all know, definitions don’t replace the functionality of a word.
The topic of Health Care Reform can seem like a larger than life issue, especially when terminology overshadows the real debate. Definitions certainly help to unravel the mysterious nature of these terms, but opinions are a far greater indication of a definition means to us personally. By informing yourself, you become a proactive (rather than reactive) part of the conversation. You can make a more educated decision and your views will be grounded by the facts and not fear.

Author's Bio: 

"Herb Kay has founded numerous companies in real estate development, lending, venture capital, and television production. In addition, he's been partner and investor in many other businesses – from restaurants to tool dealerships."

"All of this experience inspired Herb to write the New York Times Business Bestseller, How to Get Filthy Stinking Rich and Still Have Time for Great Sex: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Wealth and Happiness. The book was Herb's gateway to a host of television appearances in which he served as an expert on CNBC and FOX, among other networks and shows. He also hosted his own syndicated weekly TV show, "Get Rich Smart."