This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized to Americans for the issues with the launch of the Obama Administration’s website, HealthCare.gov. In her testimony, Ms. Sebelius told Congress that we “deserve better.” And with that, the social media world was set on fire with a rage of backlash aimed at the Administration – something that has been growing feverishly for months now.
Yes, we agree that the American public deserves better – but not just from the Administration. They deserve more from the private sector, too. At this point, some of the biggest naysayers of the Fed’s exchange launch have been leaders in our industry. It’s disheartening to watch.
It’s clear by now that the private sector can offer the government a wealth of knowledge and best practices. But for the Administration to truly learn from those lessons and fix the problems, we need to step up and stop undermining this effort.
As a start, there are three things the private sector should do to counteract what much of the media refers to as a complete debacle:
1. First, just calm down.Focus instead on helping clear up the confusion about deadlines, options and the law. For example, we should remind Americans that they can still get insurance, despite all of the issues HealthCare.gov is experiencing. Legally, Americans don’t need insurance until the end of March 2014. And, if they need something sooner, not only may short-term medical insurance be an option, but there are many off-exchange plans available to buy today from multiple carriers. In other words, HealthCare.gov is not the only source of coverage.
2. Next, help people shop. Everyday there is a news story about people’s current policies being cancelled and premium prices going up. But the reality is this: through the new exchanges, public and private, Americans can truly evaluate their health plan options and then do what they do best: shop. Our responsibility in the private sector is to remind Americans of these options.
3. Finally, provide some perspective. It was inevitable that the Administration would be faced with some technical problems, especially considering the scope of the undertaking (the biggest change in health care in our lifetime), the timing of the legislation and the funding. However, now – by law – all Americans must have health insurance. And with the new marketplaces, it will eventually be easier to achieve that.
We don’t envy Ms. Sebelius’ position right now, but we can tell you this: we won’t be knocking anyone, and neither should the rest of the private sector. Step in and run the entire thing? PR stunts aside, it does feel like the private sector has a lot to offer. Let’s stop throwing stones and get to the job at hand: educating people and helping them make good choices.
Ann Mond Johnson is the chairman of board of managers of ConnectedHealth, LLC.