Dysfunction in Washington, DC


As you read this column, the US government may or may not still be partially shut down, as the Congress and US Senate failed to find any compromise on October 1 over matters that should concern all health care professionals and citizens across the country. No matter what the next few months hold, clearly there is dysfunction in Washington, DC, as the debt ceiling looms and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be the subject of bitter dispute among the nation’s lawmakers.

On the day that the new health care exchanges opened and individuals without health care insurance began enrolling in either federal or state-run programs, a new poll conducted just days before the deadline revealed some fascinating insights into the psyche of Americans. The poll was conducted by ORC International, and it showed that most Americans know very little about this health care reform bill that was pushed through 2 years ago in a lopsided vote.

Now that Obamacare looms, proponents of the complex, multi-year health care legislation predict that the American public will embrace this new government program. Critics, however, say that it is an intrusion and the government should not have the last word on health care. In my opinion, this is a dangerous example of government expansion and it is doomed to cost tax payers more, not less, in the long run. Promises made about keeping existing coverage and controlling costs look like they are just promises.

The poll results released on the very morning the health care exchanges took effect report that fewer than 1 in 5 Americans say their families will be better off under the new health care law. The benefits of the legislation are also not apparent to fully 37% of the respondents, who say it will not help anyone. Remarkably, this number has not changed over time since March 2010 when the health care legislation first was passed—isn’t that a red flag when it comes to acceptance of this particular path? According to the poll, 4 in 10 say the new law will make their families worse off, while 41% believe it will have no effect. Only 17% feel that the law will be a good thing for themselves or their families, but others who are not participating say that other families will benefit.

Perhaps most disturbing is the negative reaction overall and the lack of faith that the ACA will ultimately work out well for the country. After all, the top goal in creating this massive legislation—and putting too much control in the government’s hands—was to control spiraling health care costs.

Respondents were given a few carefully worded choices regarding the health insurance system which is now under way: “It’s a complex plan but it will eventually work” or “It’s a disaster waiting to happen” or “No opinion.” With 3% saying “No opinion,” the reactions to the other 2 choices provide a window on the great divide that is affecting the country today. Fully 52% say “disaster,” while 45% say “it will eventually work.” I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable with those odds as the health care system in the country is barreling down this path. Are you?

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy

Chairman/Chief Executive Officer

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