We are painfully quick to judge these days. In this age of instant gratification, we cannot seem to tolerate any process that lasts more than a few days or doesn’t include a celebrity or gruesome death. Our patience has not become threadbare because of overuse, but rather we simply do not want to wait for anything of quality to be woven in the first place.
It is a mindset that plays to our most signficant societal weaknesses; it is demonstrating exactly how shallow we have become.
All week, the drumbeat over Obamacare and the the local exchanges, including Vermont Health Connect, has been a steady and unending, “It will fail.” It is as though if we all say it enough, over and over, we will either believe it or it will come true. Any parent will tell you, that logic simply does not work.
In fact, the exchanges did have a rough start. Vermont was one of only seven states out of 44 that were able to come online. Many of the others were trouble-plagued; several simply had notices posted stating, “Online enrollment coming soon.” None of the states were simply ignoring the law of the land.
In Vermont, the early glitches were attributed to the large number of people logging in — in part out of curiosity and hype; others to sign up. While the Shumlin administration was very quick to call the exchange a success, that characterization also is premature.
Judging the exchange based on four days is foolhardy. It is, as one commentator stated on National Public Radio, like predicting the chances of a Red Sox World Series victory after just two losses in April. A lot will happen in the meantime, both among wins and losses.
All week, we have seen and witnessed the political impasse that has come down to either Obamacare or a functioning government. But it’s not an either or. Like it or not (and there are a lot of people who don’t like it), Obamacare is law. Likewise, Vermont Health Connect is the response to the federal health care act. They are no longer up for discussion; the decisions has been made, and in the case of Obamacare, it has been validated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Now we must move forward as a nation.
Yet, the health care debate remains on the table, as if the outcome will somehow be different if the drumbeat is loud enough to drown out all other points of view. It would not be hard to shout down “It will fail” with the more logical “It’s the law.” The critics for now are louder and far more manipulative.
“Obamacare is not up for a popular referendum, or a revote of any kind,” Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times this week. “Its future will depend on how it works over the next few years, not the next few weeks.”
The process here deserves its chance, just like every other opportunity in America.
Few people are pointing to the irony that these exchanges are faltering because demand is driving usage. Capacity is being added every day. This is a complicated piece of technology that is, in effect, pages and pages of computer code. Add to that the fact we, as a nation, have never been here before. Yes, other countries around the globe have implemented similar systems, but it is unprecedented to build a system that takes into account a population of 337 million.
That’s not to say that even with clean designs, these exchange websites don’t contain instructions that are confusing, frustrating and even maddening. Media in nearly every state report that what should be a simple “choice” is laced with ambiguity, vague references and muddled explanations. As a news story, the content has been dry and difficult to make understandable. For that reason, it has been easier to quote the critics than the planners. That, too, has regrettably contributed to the doomed-to-fail mentality.
The kinks will be worked out, or the exercise will eventually flop. There will be ample time and opportunities in the coming months to judge and assign blame.
Nothing as complex as health care reform should be reduced to baseless facts and snap judgments. History has shown that attitude never ends well.
Besides, the proof will be here soon enough.MORE IN Perspective
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