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The Bumps In the Road Are Expected -- Take It From These Republican Officials & Leaders
Kate Oh on October 2, 2013 - 11:17am
The news headlines across the states say it all, as ThinkProgress documented: "Exchanges Draw Millions," "Millions Try to Enroll," "Strong Interest," and "A First Day Rush." The Health Care Marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are finally open for business -- and the American people are heading in, releasing their pent-up demand for affordable health coverage.
We are also seeing media coverage of the minor hiccups in implementation as it continues to move forward, such as the overwhelming demand on some of the marketplace websites. Of course, a few irresponsible and reckless lawmakers opposed to Obamacare are desperately trying to magnify them as part of their ongoing campaign to sabotage the law -- even discouraging Americans from getting health insurance. We're now in Day 2 of a federal government shutdown because these politicians are obsessively trying to extort all the other federal lawmakers and the President into dooming the Affordable Care Act. But for the rest of us, how should we take the glitches and bumps in the road?
Relax: the sky isn't falling. The bumps are expected. In fact, we've been on this road before -- with the rollout of the Medicare Part D drug benefit. As Mike Leavitt, President Bush's Health and Human Services Secretary during Part D implementation, has recounted:
"...in early 2006, there were days when I thought we could crash at any moment. For several weeks, the rollout of Medicare Part D felt like a runaway train — bumpy, uncomfortable, unnerving. Fortunately, the ride ended safely." [7/12/13]
"Problem after problem -- despite our greatest efforts to prepare -- began to manifest themselves. ...Problems manifest themselves when millions of people are trying to do the same thing simultaneously." [06/25/13]
In fact, back in 2006, scores of Republican officials and leaders had come out in force to assuage the public and let them know that they're on the job, watching for any implementation issues and working together to fix them right away. As Secretary Leavitt said, "I’m not hoping for a wreck. That outcome would hurt ordinary people, not just politicians." The Affordable Care Act's opponents should take note.
President George W. Bush:
Medicare's new prescription drug benefit is a good deal for seniors and taxpayers, President Bush said Tuesday, even as he acknowledged that the program got off to a rocky start when it began in January. "Anytime Washington passes a new law, sometimes the transition period can be interesting," the president during a town-hall style conversation in upstate New York.
...Still, White House spokesman Scott McClellan conceded Tuesday that transition issues have been something of a problem. He said most of the obstacles have been found and fixed. [3/14/06]
Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania:
"Some of the things said will bear repeating several times over the next few weeks, and one of the points I want to talk about, as you have discussed as well, is misinformation that is sent out about this plan. Any time something is new, there is going to be some glitches. All of us, when our children were new, well, we knew as parents we didn't exactly know everything we were doing and we had a foul-up or two, but we persevered and our children turned out well....
But as we were signing up 27 million seniors at a rate sometimes approaching 400,000 a week, the system wasn't always perfectly ready for all of them, and there were some glitches, particularly for some folks who were dual eligible. But the point is HHS or Medicare responded, put extra people on board, worked out some of the glitches, and I am pleased to say that many of the seniors that I talked to are very pleased with this program.
... It is of no value, as a matter of fact, it is a negative value and of questionable ethical value I think sometimes if people only spend their time criticizing the glitches that have been in the program, as with any program that occurs, whether it is a public or private program, criticizing it, standing on the outside and frightening seniors, frightening seniors into thinking that because there was complexities and difficulties, therefore they should not sign up. [Congressional Record, House of Representatives, 04/06/06]
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa:
[Quoting a New York Times editorial of Medicare implementation in 1966] "This program must be given ample time to get over its growing pains." Sen. Grassley continued: "The point of this editorial is that those words are extremely relevant today. I am not trying to make excuses or minimize the difficulties some are having. Those problems need to be fixed, and fixed fast. By all accounts, everyone is working hard to get them resolved.... The point is, the opponents of this new benefit will complain and fight it no matter what happens. I hope everyone remembers that." [Congressional Record, Senate, 02/02/06]
Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:
"Right now the new Medi-Care Part D prescription drug program is not working as intended and, until it does, the State of California will cover the cost of prescriptions for people in the program. We know that the federal government is working to repair the problems, but right now one million Californians need our help and it is time for us to take care of our own." [01/17/06]
Then-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:
"Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt came to Arkansas and assured me the federal government is doing all it can to correct the problem.... I'm confident the federal government will iron out the problems, but in the meantime, I want to reassure Arkansans their health and safety will not be jeopardized because they cannot get their prescriptions filled." [02/01/06]
Then-Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia:
"Like most significant programs, the new benefit has not gone without a few isolated glitches and unexpected problems, but I believe that if there is anything wrong with the plan, most of it has been fixed and that that hasn’t can be fixed over time." [03/01/06, Pg. 5]
"Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the people who voted against this bill find themselves on the wrong side of history and are now taking advantage of every opportunity to attack this new benefit by seizing on every little temporary glitch and exaggerating often isolated problems and making them seem like the norm. Of course, these partisan attacks and political posturing do nothing to help America’s seniors." [03/01/06, Pg. 7]
"Okay. Mr. Lipshutz, with regard to the problems that you have outlined, are you seeing progress being made in terms of eliminating some of these problems that initially presented themselves on time problems?"... "Right. I think once we get the dual eligible situation ironed out as nearly as possible, much of the complaints will actually go away." [03/01/06, Pg. 170]
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas:
"As I mentioned earlier, the new benefit and its implementation are hardly perfect. At the same time, I am proud to say that in my Congressional district, 81,000 seniors have been able to take advantage of the new plan...."
"Rather than trying to scare and confuse seniors, I would hope that we can work together as we go through the implementation phase to find out what is wrong with the program and if we can make some changes to fix it, let us do it and let us do it on a bipartisan basis... It is too big of a program and it is too important to too many people not to do that. But having said that, if it does appear that it is working, let us admit it, you know, let us not keep beating a dead horse." [03/01/06, Pg. 11-12]
Rep. Charlie Norwood of Georgia:
"However, Part D is the law and it is actually working. Did it work perfectly on day one? Heck, no. It surely did not. Do I believe that some problems could have been prevented? Yes, they could have. I think so. However, I also think that this benefit will continue to get better and I have lots of in-the-field reasons to believe that to be true. In truth, many of the problems that were encountered in January were the result of miscommunication or no communication between CMS and the insurance plans and the pharmacies regarding dual eligibles. That is where the basic problem was. These problems have largely, though I am sure not completely, been worked out." [03/01/06, Pg. 15-16]
Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas:
"We can’t undo the past, but certainly they can make the argument that we are having this hearing a month late and perhaps we are, but the reality is the prescription drug benefit is 40 years late and seniors who signed up for Medicare those first days back in 1965 when they were 65 years of age are now 106 years of age waiting for that prescription drug benefit, so I hope it doesn’t take us that long to get this right and I don’t believe that it will. And I do believe that fundamentally it is a good plan." [03/01/06, Pg. 22-23]
Rep. Michael Bilirakis of Florida:
"People were not signing up for it and that sort of thing and if we had taken all that, not we, but those who were here at that time, if they had basically said we are going to discard it because the newspapers say hey, there are an awful lot of problems and it is no good, then we would not have Medicare today. So Mr. Chairman, we are just not open minded, and we talk about wanting to have hearings, well, it is just another opportunity to get up here in a very partisan and biased manner, just express our point of view, not on a basis of education, and what we are really learning." [03/01/06, Pg. 26]
"And I agree with you. Thank God for them and they have said the same thing to me, that January was a really horrendous month but things have really smoothed out and of course, there is the reimbursement, what they are compensated, a dollar and something per, what is it, per prescription?" [03/01/06, Pg. 79]