“Great services are not canceled by one act or by one single error.” — Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Benjamin Disraeli was a British conservative politician who knew a thing or two about politics, serving twice as prime minister of the United Kingdom. I have been thinking about great political blunders and came across this quote while searching the Internet using the word “mistakes.”
Readers of this column will not be surprised that I am a supporter of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962), also known euphemistically as “Obamacare.” Not since President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965 to provide access to healthcare for the indigent and elderly, has such a sweeping overhaul of healthcare finance law occurred. From my perspective, there is much good in this bill.
Insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. The bill establishes health insurance exchanges, allowing Americans to compare health insurance products for benefits and rates. Perhaps most importantly, 25 million people will be able to obtain health insurance under Obamacare, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate. The bill has many other provisions that are beyond the scope of this particular editorial, but the changes are historic.
As with Medicare and Medicaid, there has been no shortage of detractors concerning Obamacare. Fears of another step toward socialism, economic ruin, death panels and/or the destruction of the American healthcare system abound in the media and the local coffee shop. It is a harsh reality of human existence that we as a species are generally adverse to change, even though history teaches us that change is really the only thing we can absolutely count on. Admittedly there are many social and economic concerns, some recognized, others yet unrealized, that will accompany social reform legislation of this magnitude.
The disastrous rollout of the healthcare website (www.healthcare.gov) has certainly not helped the current administration’s position. Sadly, in my opinion, it has refocused the healthcare debate in this country in a surreal direction. Granted, opening the site to the public when it was clearly not ready was an almost unforgivable misstep worthy of only the most inept high school computer hack. Then again, if I trashed a project every time I was challenged with a computer malfunction, I would likely be driving a bus right now (No offense intended toward bus drivers; it is the one job I could think of that still does not require a computer) rather than directing a large federal research program. I am willing to concede that the Obamacare “pig,” even with lipstick, still leaves much to be desired.
Before too many stones are cast at this sincere attempt to improve the health of millions of Americans, I must ask opponents, “What else is there? Where is your plan?” Staying the course with our present healthcare system does not appear to be an option, since costs are rising at a staggering rate that threatens to consume our economy. In 2009, during the worst recession since the 1930s, health spending rose 4% to a record 17.6% of the U.S. gross domestic product.1
I keep hearing from pundits in the television and print media that the failed Obamacare website is evidence that this healthcare legislation is a failure. What? The broken website is only evidence of poor website design which, fortunately, is neither a crime nor all that uncommon in government. Dare I mention the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA)? Rather than investing so much energy in slamming the administration for a botched website, would not this political discourse be better applied to how Obamacare could be improved or descriptions of legislative alternatives that allow access to quality healthcare without bankrupting the nation? Yes, these are all rhetorical questions, and I am committing an editorial sin — which is the beauty of editorialization, so different and satisfying from the dry science I usually write.
Access to healthcare for 25 million more Americans is a great service to this society. Since I am convinced our present healthcare system is unsustainable, I am willing to try something — anything — different. For better or worse, Obamacare is a needed change that just happens to be the law of the land at present. Only time and implementation will prove the success or failure of this particular healthcare approach. I do not see the logic in damning the entire legislative package because of a software error.
I still receive updates for my Microsoft Windows software and they have been at it for years. I also logged onto the healthcare website on Dec. 1, 2013, which was the government’s self-imposed deadline to fix the site, and explored the site without issue. It will take far more than this single error to dissuade me from the logic of moving American healthcare in the Obamacare direction. I do not necessarily believe Obamacare will be the final answer, though I am pleased we finally have a start toward healthcare reform in America. Now the serious debate can begin.
1 Will health costs bankrupt America? – Forbes 2/23/2011 http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2011/0314/health-care-recession-expenditure-bankrupt-america.html