Patience is a virtue that’s difficult to embrace when a 24/7 news media cycle is exhorting you to worry instead. At times like these, a dose of context and broader perspective might help, and Sally Kohn lays it on: “A few geeks locked in a room with a case of Mountain Dew will fix the Obamacare websites. But all the computer programmers and pundits and conservative nay-sayers in the land couldn’t fix the fact that, three years ago, our health care costs were skyrocketing, tens of millions of Americans lacked health insurance and 14,000 more were losing their coverage every day. We needed a law to fix that. Thankfully, we now have one.”
Indeed, three years after passage and roughly 45 days into a 180-day enrollment period, the Affordable Care Act has already helped millions of Americans with access to and affordability of health care services. By March 31, 2014 it is projected that millions more will have taken a similar turn for the better. Through other parts of the law, significant innovation is underway to improve care coordination and quality while reducing its cost.
Change is nearly always hard. Change is most often confusing – particularly when distractions and complications encourage one to lose sight of the positives and the ultimate goal. Millions of people are either angry, confused or both at this juncture. While delays, policy cancellations (see “Not All That Sorry”) and the unintended consequences of the law are neither helpful nor welcome, they are to be expected as part of the process when the goals are this big.
However, there is no sense in “going back” to how things were. Obscured during the change process is the fact that before the Affordable Care Act the U.S. was moving along an unsustainable trajectory in terms of coverage and cost. In fact analysts using ten years of cost data trends found that the only thing we’d be able to afford in 30 or so years was health care, and nothing else.
This enrollment period is not the end of the world that some are making it out to be. It is a continuation of a long series of changes and adjustments that are necessary to make U.S. health care more available, more affordable and more effective. Those with the energy and means to do battle over health care’s future would best serve themselves and their constituents by looking constructively and creatively at ideas that leave unsustainable and impractical systems behind.