Kent Bottles: Health Care Reform: Maybe We Should All Take a Deep Breath
The Gartner Research Hype Cycle is on my mind today, one day after the House passed the Senate health care reform bill and a reconciliation bill to make some adjustments that now the Senate has to consider. However, as soon as President Obama signs the first bill, the law of the land will be the Senate version of health care reform. Even if the Senate does not pass the second reconciliation bill, health care reform has been achieved. As a health care reform junky, I am now trying to figure out why everyone is so worked up.
The Hype Cycle (which near as I can tell is not really a cycle at all) contrasts the expectations that we have with the real progress that occurs. It identifies a peak of inflated expectation, a trough of disillusionment, a slope of enlightenment, and a plateau of productivity. It has been applied to the adoption of new technology, and even though it is hardly scientific it does make the point that taking a deep breath might make more sense than getting all excited or disillusioned. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle)
The business section of the New York Times today has a piece on the winners and losers in health care reform. The uninsured, hospitals, doctors, and drug companies can all be seen as winners because 32 million more Americans will have health insurance coverage. The cost of unreimbursed care should go down for hospitals, and drug companies can sell more drugs if newly insured patients can get prescriptions. Health plans are seen as losers, but they did not lose their exemption from anti-trust laws and they will not have to compete against the dreaded public option. It could have been a lot worse for the “losers.” Health plans will be placed under a lot more regulation, and they will have to change the way they sell insurance to individuals and small companies. (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/business/22bizhealth.html?ref=global)
Another reason to take a deep breath is to realize that much of the new system does not go into action until 2014. The insurance exchanges, the individual mandates, the expansion of Medicaid, and other regulations do not take effect immediately. There are effects immediately such as immediate access to insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, elimination of life-time and annual limits to coverage, tax credits to small companies to purchase coverage, prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions for children, and requiring plans to cover preventive services and immunization without cost sharing. The immediate effects seem good to me. (http://bit.ly/9OYraw)
Some of my liberal friends are angry that there is no public option. That is true, and it makes the health plans happy. Some of my Republican friends are angry, and there are still protesters making untrue claims of death panels and federally funded abortions and a government take-over of health care. Since there seems to be anger on both the right and the left, maybe we came up with a reasonable reform plan. Since we all know that the status quo before yesterday was not working and was not sustainable, maybe we should all wait and see what happens. Just a thought.