Why Healthcare Reform FailedFebruary 24th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
I’ve been wanting to write this post for weeks, but have had little time on my hands. I’ve watched the so-called experts and talking heads spew opinions on why healthcare reform failed, and truthfully, I think most of them have missed the boat.
And I was incredibly shocked to see President Obama unveil his new plan for health care this week just days before the “bipartisan health care summit”. We’ll come back to this.
Failure of a Plan is often a Failure to Plan
It’s easy to look at what transpired the last few months and point to them as reasons why healthcare reform failed. Waning public support. The backroom deals. Artificial time lines. The lack of certain logical solutions in the plan such as tort reform or to allow insurance companies to compete across state lines. The size of the plan. And general mistrust of the process.
But as with most failed plans, it’s best to look at the beginning of the process, not the middle or the end.
Let’s take a college student preparing for a final exam as an example. The day before her test her car breaks down and she’s unable to spend the necessary time to cram for the test. She fails. Did she fail because her car broke down? Probably not. She failed because of the number of times she skipped class and never completed her homework along the way. She didn’t have a plan from the beginning of the class as how to succeed at the end of the class.
I think that President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have much in common with the student who flunked because she failed to execute a well designed plan.
Where President Obama Failed
I have spent a significant amount of time studying leadership and management. I have come to understand that leaders and managers require different skill sets to be successful. And that a president of a company, or a country, needs to have strong leadership and management skills to be successful.
There’s a common scenario described in many of the books about successfully managing people. Here’s the basic example:
A bad sales manager meets with his sales staff and tells them he wants them to increase their sales by 10% and walks out of the room.
A good sales managers meets individually with her sales people and asks them what their goals are for increasing their sales, how they plan to get there, and what assistance she can be along the way.
In the first scenario the staff feels disconnected with the goal. It seems arbitrary. There’s no “buy in” of the goal. There is no clear path to achieve the goal. And no support system in place for success.
In the second scenario the staff feels like they’re able to set their own goals and help to develop the process. They “buy in” to the goals because they’re the ones who set the goals. They are now responsible for meeting these goals. And what good managers often find out is that good employees will often set their goals higher than what the manager would have set them to be in the first place.
So what did the president do? He walked into a room and said “I want healthcare reform on my desk by this date” and he walked out. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were now responsible for getting a bill on the president’s desk. But Congress had no “buy in” to the process. And certainly no clear direction as how to succeed.
What should the president have done? What would a good manager do? I can tell you what the good sales manager would have done. She would have pulled in several members of Congress, from the Senate and the House, and leaders from both parties, sat them all around a table, and said: “We need to fix health care. We need to control costs. We need to find a way to cover the people who cannot buy coverage — either because they can’t afford it, or have a pre-existing condition. And we need to maintain the high-quality of care we enjoy today. How do we accomplish this?” She would ask this group to provide an outline of a plan by a certain date, and ask THEM to set a date for when THEY would get a bill on her desk.
You now have “buy in” from both parties to the process. They have set their own goals and time lines. And now feel responsibility for meeting these goals.
Where Congress Failed
I have always thought of myself as a problem solver. I look at a problem with an open mind. Identify the problem. Set a goal. Accumulate information. Develop different scenarios. And then choose a path that solves the problem and accomplishes the goal.
Does anybody believe that this is how Congress, or more specifically Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, set out to fix health care?
No. They had a pre-determined outcome in mind — a large government solution. And from there they worked backwards to explain how their “solution” would cure the problems we face with health care. (Here’s a link to a previous post as to why the plan in Congress would lead to a single payer, government run system.)
My Advice to the President
I have been in favor of this “bipartisan health care summit”. Get the leaders from both parties, and from both the House and the Senate together. Sit them around a big table. President Obama needs to walk into the room with a large Hefty bag filled with shredded paper, throw it on the table, and say: “We’re starting over. We need to fix health care. We need to control costs. We need to find a way to cover the people who cannot buy coverage — either because they can’t afford it, or have a pre-existing condition. And we need to maintain the high-quality of care we enjoy today. How do we accomplish this?”
The Last Word
Well this would have been my advice. But now the president has unveiled his “new” health care plan just days before the summit. Republicans who had approached the summit with skepticism were right. It was all a ploy.
Tags: Health Care