We all know the clichés surrounding change. Change is hard. Change is another word for opportunity. Change is inevitable. Change hurts. Change is for the best. Etc., etc. Put simply: change, whether for good or bad, is uncomfortable. And under the legislation passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, change is coming to the health care industry. In fact, when one-sixth of the economy is involved, change is coming to our society.
The anxiety this change is causing is not surprising. Health care is personal and critical. The legislative process and political context in which this health care reform bill passed has done little to inspire confidence. For many readers of this blog, whose career and livelihood is inextricably tied to the health insurance industry, the changes coming are especially unsettling.
So a certain amount of hyperventilating is to be expected, both in the comments section of this blog and beyond. Over the next several days I’ll be posting information about some of the details of the reform package and offer my observations on how this will impact the industry and, more specifically, professional health insurance brokers. But for now, my advice is, to take a deep breath and try to maintain a sense of perspective.
Keep in mind, nothing is going to change tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. Most, although not all, of the reforms take effect months and years from now. There will be plenty of time to digest the meaning of the health care reform package and to prepare for its impact.
Not only will there be plenty of time to digest and prepare for the coming changes, there is plenty of time to influence what those changes are. Congress is still considering the clean-up legislation. And once these laws are signed, there’s still much to be done. Judges, judges, regulators and state lawmakers will refine, define and mold the provisions of the bills. This is an evolving process. Organizations like the National Association of Health Underwriters are well prepared to promote the viewpoints of its members.
One final bit of reassurance for those overstressing about health care reform. It takes the form of two interconnected truths: 1) things are never as bad as they seem to be; and 2) America is strong enough to muddle through challenges, mistakes and worse.
America survived Senator Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts in the 50’s. We survived the anti-war demonstrations and the campus riots of the 60’s. We survived President Richard Nixon and Watergate in the 70’s. We survived mullets in the 80’s. America survived the scandals of the 90’s. We survived unfunded, deficit-busting tax cuts for the wealthy in the ‘00s. (Two of them, actually). The reason? None of these events were as cataclysmic as they seemed to be at the time. And America is strong enough to survive such problems.
To claim that health care reform marks the end of America’s greatness is illogical and, based on history, wrong. Opponents called Medicare and Social Security socialistic, yet the country is sound and those programs are an established part of what’s considered the norm. Critics claimed President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was going to result in the destruction of American values. Didn’t happen.
At least once per generation some economic swing is described as dooming the financial wellbeing of that generation’s children and grandchildren to an inner circle of financial hell. Well take a look around. We are the grandchildren of those economic policies. And we’re still the strongest economy on the planet.
The unknown is a scary place because, well, it’s unknown. And as human beings we have a tendency to extrapolate from where we’ve been through where we are to where we’re going in a straight line. The Glenn Becks of the world love to play this game, tying reasonable regulation to the advent of socialism, Nazism and communism. But the Glenn Becks of the world are more interested in selling soap (or gold, as the case may be) than in presenting sound and reasoned arguments. To fully understand the silliness of this simplistic, irrational thinking, I strongly urge you to spend 15 minutes watching Jon Stewart’s skewing of Glenn Beck on The Daily Show that aired on March 18th. Not only is it hilarious, but it superbly outlines the danger of Mr. Beck’s sloppy illogic. (There’s a couple of annoying commercials you have to get through before the show starts, and it’s somewhat risqué, but thedelay before he gets to the chalk board is well worth it. This may be the best quarter-hour of political satire I’ve every seen).
America is a resilient country. We are creative, hard working, and dedicated. We work things through. The health care reform package President Obama will sign into law tomorrow (even as improved by the side-car legislation that will likely arrive on his desk in the next few weeks) creates problems galore. It does some good things, too. For those taking notes, the status quo presents problems aplenty, too. And it also does some things well.
Problems are never solved, they’re just replaced with new problems. And as those new problems emerge we’ll address them.
The same holds true for health insurance professionals. We’ve faced change before – and not all of it for the better. But we continued to provide meaningful services to our clients, demonstrated our value and expertise, and we’ve succeeded. And we will again.