Why Healthcare Reform Failed

February 24th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge

Health Care Reform, What About Us?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.

Universal CareWhere 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.


11 Responses to “Why Healthcare Reform Failed”

  1. Steve Guiot Says:

    I am so!… effing!… happy!… that George Bush is not our president!

  2. Steve Guiot Says:

    Seriously… I know, you know, the Republicans know, the Democrats know hopefully Obama knows now. The Republicans have absolutely no interest in anything but the 2010 elections and their painfully obvious strategy is to obstruct everything. I think Obama is smart for calling them out on it in the public forum to try to show as many people as he can the Right’s true intentions as the party of no. If you think it’s a trick, or a ploy, or a trap, then so be it. It is only because the Republicans won’t even vote for anything they say they agree with, or better yet, if Obama has anything good to say about a pending bill they won’t even vote for their own bill they cosponsor!

    “I love gridlock. I think we’re better off when we’re gridlocked because we’re not passing things.”
    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

  3. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hey, Steve. Good morning.

    I’m not defending the republicans. I agree many republicans are more interested in the elections than legislation at this point.

    But silly me for believing the president might actually attempt bipartisan support to get something passed that will improve health care. Let’s attempt to solve a problem. That’s their job. All of them for that matter.

    Right now Obama does not have public support. But he would gain huge points in public opinion by scrapping the current plans and by showing that he’s willing to work with both sides to accomplish a new bill. By coming out with his own plan PRIOR to the summit he’s proven that he’s not interested in bipartisanship any more than the republicans are. And has lost an opportunity to rally some public support behind him.

  4. Dan the Printer Man Says:

    so what blame do you ascribe to the ‘lets make this Obama’s Waterloo’ attitude by the Republican party towards Obama since he got elected?

  5. Lee Eldridge Says:

    Hey Dan. Welcome!

    Biggest blame I have for the republicans is that they had their shot and they didn’t even attempt to fix the problems with health care. The republicans controlled Congress from 1994-2006 and other than the prescription drug bill that was passed a few years ago I can’t even think of anything they accomplished in the health care arena. At least the democrats have tried. They just tried to do it by themselves, which was never likely to work.

    What’s going on right now would be comical if health care wasn’t so important.

  6. Brian Says:

    Nice summary there Lee, and I’ve got no qualms with your approach from the perspectice of a private enterprise. But this administration, and any political administration that attempts to “reform” an institution as major as health care, errs in the basic assumption that government has any role in the issue whatsoever. The Constitution is very specific in the powers that are enumerated as belonging to the Federal government and administrating American health care is not there. Liberal Democrats have been trying to assume control over health care in this country since the Truman years. This effort should be stopped just like all the others. If they get it passed by reconciliation, it will get overturned by Supreme Court challenge or in the next election. Get govt out of it. Time to take back our country!

  7. Marty Says:

    Hey Lee,

    Love the large hefty bag idea. Let’s throw in the tax code and start over with that as well. The house and the Senate are a joke on both sides. We need term limits and/or age limits and publically financed elections. They are there to do a job, not have a job.

  8. Julie A. Says:

    Hello, Lee
    Yeah the problem here is that obama, pelosi, reed are not interested whatsoever in actual health care reform. But they are interested in obtaining as much government control as possible. And if they get control over health care, then they will finally have their socialist state, which they have been salivating over since FDR.

    Steve says that the repubs are the obstructionists here…. The republicans are not the only obstructionists… because the democrats can do anything they want—they have all the votes they need and the repubs can’t do anything about it-they just don’t have the votes.

    In actuality, its the democrats who are worried about their own elections…thats why obama can’t get total support on this. The repubs are actually representing the will of the people, as 2/3 of us clearly don’t want reform this way.

    If they are interested in AUTHENTIC reform they can do these things, and the health care costs would come down substantially:
    1) Allow purchasing insurance across state lines (increase competition)
    2) Tort reform
    3) deal with the immigration problem (big problem)

  9. Bobby Says:

    The summit was no more than a TV op for the president to shake his finger and scold the republicans. Now THAT’S leadership you can believe in.

  10. Dan the Printer Man Says:

    I agree with Steve Guiot…he and i have both observed that no amount of bipartisanship short of allowing the R’s to write the bills will get Obama anywhere. The R’s decided before he was even inaugurated that they were going to say no to everything, make him look innefective, and ensure that he ‘fails’ at passing his agenda. And last time I checked, he was the duly and overwhelmingly elected president of the country. Last time i checked this country was and still is hemoraging jobs. And so on. As far as im concerned, the R’s are like a little kid who wont clean their bedroom, and when you ask them why, they say because you were mean when you told them to clean it.

  11. Julie A Says:

    And the democrats aren’t ever partisan?? Lol. Have you forgotten the time when Bush tried to reform social security?

    At this point, health care is a philosophical battle. Obama,Pelosi,Reed..et al..are pushing a government “solution”. Most of the repubs are against this bill– as are the majority of the American people. The ONLY thing the repubs have for leverage is public opinion and THAT’S IT. Just think how pissed voters would be if the repubs actually did roll over and go along with the dems…65% or more of americans want the repubs to do exactly what they are currently doing!

    None of this matters cuz, it looks like obama is going to exercise the nuclear option and cram it down our throats anyway.

    Thank God the founders were brilliant enough to put in a self-correcting mechanism every 2 years….. if we can make it that far