The government shutdown is a chance for insurers to inform the public without inciting the American people: to address people’s concerns about, say, their ability to buy health insurance from a site run by the government but governed by the market. This chance is temporary, which means now is not the time for insurers to be silent. Now is not the time to say or do nothing, while citizens worry about the state of their own unions, never mind the president’s State of the Union address, because of their fears about the quality of their health insurance or the stability of their retirement insurance.
Now is the time for insurers to show they are people not by virtue of the legal definition of personhood but by the virtues that define a just and humane people.
These virtues include helping the public by educating the people without selling them a thing, because people will buy insurance—if they need insurance—so long as they have reason to trust insurers.
That trust is the realization of a message: a message that grows with repetition, based on marketing and branding for insurers.
It is a message I will continue to repeat, until insurers get the point, until the point is as clear to them as it is to us; that insurers are like a public trust, in terms of how they look as well as the look and feel of the very papers they print for term (and all kinds of) insurance; that insurers have commercial longevity and contractual legitimacy; that insurers have assets beyond the physical, which they can deepen or deplete with a single action.
These intangible assets are a matter of perception. If, for example, people perceive insurers to be too big to fail, and if that perception persists, insurers will still exist—they may very well thrive—but they will have failed to safeguard irreplaceable assets like support from the public and the respect of the people.
See also: The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Now is the time, then, for insurers to fill the void caused by the government shutdown.
Now is the time for insurers to establish goodwill and earn the trust of the American people.
By speaking to the insured and the uninsured, by assuring the people of their desire to serve the public interest rather than the interests of private enterprise, insurers can deliver a message that we will long remember.
Crafting that message starts now.
Honoring that message must never stop, because honesty has no expiration date, integrity has no sell-by date and decency has no end date.
The end that insurers should seek is the one they have an opportunity to achieve: popular acceptance.
They have a role to play and a statement to articulate.
Let us hope that they find their voice, that they give voice to what matters most.
Let us hope that we listen to that voice.
I wait for the sound of that voice.