OP-ED

Can Everybody Please Just Calm Down?

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.

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18 replies »

  1. Were a team of volunteers along with starting a brand new plan in your community. Your website offered all of us together with tips to work with. You’ve got done your formidable job and also our complete town might be pleased to you personally.

  2. Just calm down:

    1) Most people won’t get seriously ill in the next year.
    2) If they do, health care probably won’t help. (Remember how many people die of medical errors – stay out of the hospital!)
    3) Super glue can be used instead of sutures for many cuts.
    4) Windex has many uses for skin conditions (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).
    5) Women have been squatting in the field to have babies for thousands of years. Saves a lot on OB!
    6) Acupuncture and Holistic Medicine work great.
    7) Jenny McCarthy says that immunizations cause Autism. So if your kids doesn’t get his shots he is better off!

    See, don’t you feel better already!

  3. You’re right. ‘Think Wright Brothers … Let’s wait to see if we can get this sucker off the ground before we decide flying is a bad idea.’ (said Ian Morrison, PhD @ the annual meeting of the AAMC on Sunday) We have to calm down work through the challenges and build a viable system for today and tomorrow. There’s really no other alternative.

  4. No, I will not “calm down”. Hundreds of millions of our dollars have been poured down a rat-hole, the promises made revealed as a collection of purposeful lies, and real people are suffering demonstrable harm from this fatally flawed piece of legislation.

  5. Actually, it is, Michele. I am in perhaps one of the worst age groups -over 60, but too young for Medicare. Rates are very high for my age group, regardless of how healthy you may be.

    My insurance (I purchase my own as I am self-employed) renewed 11/1. Since my grandfathered plan increased to almost $700/month, I canceled it and got a short-term policy for the rest of the year to sort out my options. My premium is about 1/2 of what I had been paying and my deductible is 1/4 of my old one.

    There is a big caveat – it does not cover pre-existing conditions, but since I am very healthy, that was not a problem.

    I highly recommend people find a good broker to help them through their options. Good luck!

  6. Right, you can get insurance, but at what cost now and in the future? Just because you have a card that says you have insurance can you even get a physician to treat you? Especially in primary care.

  7. Someone please explain how increased access to a system that cannot keep from overspending is a solution to anything. The lack of access came because costs rose too high, and costs rose too high because they spend far too much on care that doesn’t help people. The hemorrhage in the ship is the money flowing out of it. What the government did with this legislation, was to issue a bunch more tickets to a ship that is sinking. The crisis is one of cost, not access.

    Of course, the Republican cry to repeal the law is also misguided, as it also ignores the big hole in the ship. It’s not like things were great before the ACA. Who’s the captain doesn’t matter if nobody patches the hole.

  8. Sorry, I have been profoundly watching this issue since 2009 when the whole farce first started, and, as an independent voter in Maryland, have NO partisan interest in this matter, so want to shut off the automatic partisan attacks that ALWAYS follow my comments.

    The law stinks, mandates when it comes to health care have no place, certainly when matters are punitive, and the focus solely on costs by both sides of the polluted aisle of Republocrats that completely have dominated the debate is sheer disingenuousness at its worst.

    People will NOT access their doctors, formularies will continue and more ruthlessly restrict access to medications and other interventions, and people will be if not denied outright then prolonged in delays to access of elective needs will wind up with acute care problems.

    So, making millions of people pay for the uninsured is already fairly criminal in intent, but, making millions have to answer to non clinicians determine standards of care will be beyond abandonment and neglect.

    But, you all keep letting these politicians set the tone of the debate.

    Some of you won’t be able to be around to see resolution if things stay as is. Oh, by the way, Democrat hacks, that 2 digit margin the democrat candidate for Governor in VA enjoyed on Monday, now down to 4 points per one poll today. Think more voters losing their insurance vote than those getting Medicaid vote?

    We will see. As will federal politicians for reelection in 2014!

  9. “Calm down…It’s all good” ..said the owner/principal/person who stands to gain a lot by selling “off-exchange software”

  10. Agree hysteria solves nothing

    But?- 🙂

    Here is my grossly overly simplified US “Healthcare Plan”- Call in “LippinCare” if you want? 🙂

    – Close 1/3rd of US Hospitals within 5 years. There are too many and too geopraphically concentrated. Reward efficient ones who don’t horribly gouge/rape the system- Have you checked your hospital bills lately?

    – Every US citizen DESERVES as painfree and as dignified a death as modern medicine has to offer- Have you checked the medical expenditures in the last 6 months of “life”?

    – Strong emphasis on both individual (behavioral change) and institutional (public health) prevention. We need both.

    – Single Payer by 2020 – Medicare, by in large, “works” – Or at least there is the framework for it to work.

  11. Ann,
    I admit I am not a supporter of this law for numerous reasons.
    Aside from that, let’s look at this logically:
    Mr. Obama is a smart guy, this is his signature piece of legislation, and widely derided by Republicans and much of the public. Mr. Obama used tech widely in his presidential campaigns and this certainly contributed to his wins.
    Why on earth would he not make absolutely certain that the rollout go as smoothly as possible, and if it couldn’t, then by all means postpone it to make sure it is going to work. Can you understand that someone who may be desperate to get insurance is going to be alarmed and frustrated?
    To make it worse, the administration proclaimed repeatedly that people could keep their insurance and doctors. This may have been a simple misstatement but can you see how this would infuriate people who have the coverage and doctors their comfortable with and now cannot?
    What set me off from the outset and no doubt is a huge concern as we see more consequences is Pelosi’s statement “we’ll see what’s in it when it passes”.
    Sometimes laws passed with very good intentions have very serious wide ranging consequences, especially if there has not been a very thorough critique of the law before passage.

  12. Thanks for a great well-reasoned and balanced point of view- it’s pretty clear that the less than smooth launch of healthcare.gov is being used as an example of “government is going to screw up healthcare” while ignoring tons of available data about the cost / quality of healthcare in the US.

    The ACA is more than a website and the Administration didn’t push for a single payer or public option plan- the private insurers will have plenty of time to get us to sign up. The rest of our lives, in fact. I believe the marketplaces will eventually get it right and that costs will eventually come down- it’s important to keep the anecdotal evidence and the needs of the 24 news hype cycle in perspective.

  13. Seems very simplistic and ignores the reason for why American’s are fearful; the cost. Are you telling me that if a person loses their insurance and they get a short term plan for the interim that that plan will be affordable? I just don’t think it’s that easy — or that affordable.

  14. Concur totally.

    But you are way too practical. The haters will hate, the ultra conservative will turn a deaf ear to the facts, and the uninformed will still think that the delivery system we have is the best it can be.

    The only answer is for the ACA to add 15, 20 or 30 million to the insured rolls and in the process make the changes that are needed as quickly as possible and then watch the positive impact of universal coverage.

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