Overland Park & Leawood

Thoughts on health care debate? Leawood native creates way for your voice to be heard

Michael Stahl
Michael Stahl

If you could write your own national health care bill, what would it be?

Leawood native Michael Stahl has come up with an easy way to answer that question and help inform the national discussion on health care policy that’s set to begin now that Donald Trump and fellow Republicans have majority control of Congress and the White House. The new leadership has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

The #OurCareBill website, at www.ourcarebill.org/, launched on Jan. 23. Sponsored by HealthMarkets, Inc., a Texas-based insurance agency, the website lets visitors choose what options they would include in their own ideal health care bill. It then has links for people who want to share their version on Facebook and Twitter or even tweet directly to the president.

The idea is to give people a voice in the details, said Stahl, senior vice president of HealthMarkets and developer of the site.

Talk about health care regulations is often at a “high level,” Stahl said. “You just hear verbiage like ‘repeal and replace.’ You don’t hear discussion about the details and the details really matter.”

“We’ve seen all the good and bad of the current structure,” he said. “We’ve seen all the warts of the prior structure before the ACA went into effect and none of it is simple.”

Stahl, 34, has long had an interest in pocketbook issues. As a high school senior at Blue Valley North in 2000, he published a book about investing for young people entitled “Early to Rise: A Young Adult’s Guide to Saving, Investing and Financial Decisions that can Shape Your Life”.

In college at the University of Pennsylvania, he invented a game called Street Sage as a stock market simulation tool for teaching investment strategies. After college and an internship at Bear Stearns, Stahl began a career in the insurance industry.

He said he hopes the site will encourage a non-partisan discussion of the details of a health care bill and give the average person a voice in the coming rewrite of the government’s plan.

“This is not us lobbying,” Stahl said. “The OurCare movement is not any one party. It’s not the Democratic Party’s health care system. It’s not the Republican Party’s health care system. It’s all of our health care system. We all have a stake in it and we need to have a real discussion about this kind of bill.”

The site is set up so that people who aren’t health insurance experts – most people – can express their views by taking a short quiz. Visitors are offered a list of options that have been proposed or are already in place. Then they can go down a list and vote up or down on things like emergency services, prescription drugs and maternity coverage. There’s space at the end for any other comments and suggestions not included in the options.

Links at the end allow visitors to share on social media or tweet to the president. However, sharing on the social media outlets is not the only end use of the data. Stahl said the site will also keep track of which options are chosen most often and update it daily. The idea is that this compilation of ideas, which will be called “America’s Bill,” can then be shared with the news media, lawmakers and others.

Listening to people’s health insurance needs is part of the brand identity of HealthMarkets, he said. HealthMarkets is a family of businesses primarily focused on health insurance for small businesses and individuals as well as supplemental insurance for seniors.

Stahl doesn’t come by his interest in health insurance randomly. His father, Dr. Lloyd Stahl, is a cardiologist and his mother, Jacqueline Stahl, a pharmacist. “Health care and health insurance is a bit in my blood,” he said.

“As it intersects with finance, there’s no subject that is more important both to people’s financial and physical health,” he said, noting that medical-related expenses are the number-one cause of bankruptcy.

“There’s nothing more critical to protecting your financial and physical health than this topic,” he said. “Because of that we have to have a serious conversation as a society to do this right. We need to come together on the details of how do we make this better for all of us.”