This week the White House announced yet another Obamacare delay–actually, to be precise, they termed it an “accommodation”. The reason given for the delay was that there were concerns voiced by the Obama administration that the “rush” to sign up during the final days may cause delays and result in a website crash. Therefore, it was proclaimed that those who were “trying to sign up” would be given an extension to mid April to complete the process. Overall there have been more than 20 unilateral changes/delays/exceptions made by the President without Congressional approval or oversight. Exceptions have been provided for businesses and those who serve and work in our Congress BUT the individual mandate remains in place. In the meantime, many that have been counted as “signing up” have no insurance and a large number have not yet paid their premiums. However, the biggest problem with the manipulation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may actually be the commentary of one of its greatest supporters–Senator Harry Reid.
With the 2014 Midterm elections looming, many of those in Congress who are facing reelection have commented on the latest delays in an effort to positively spin the news. As you might expect, those in leadership roles such as Senator Harry Reid have tried to minimize the impact of repeated Obamacare failures and fixes on his part (a desperate attempt to cling to a majority). In an effort to explain the need for the latest delay Senator Reid has shown his complete lack of connection with the nation. He publicly proclaimed and was quoted in the Washington Times as saying that “some [old people] may not be educated about [or understand] the internet”. In reality, more seniors than ever before are utilizing the internet in order to maintain medical information. Pew Research Center data indicates that as of 2013, nearly 60% of all Americans in the 50-65 year old age group are actively engaged in internet based social media. Even more telling is the fact that 50% of those over the age of 65 are involved in AT LEAST one internet based social media outlet. It is clear that the internet and medicine will be intimately connected in the future. Twitter, a popular site for micro-blogging in 140 characters or less has seen a 79% increase in utilization by users in the 50-65 year old age group. When you carefully examine the Senator’s comments he is clearly referring to those in the 50-65 year old range–those over 65 will be enrolled in Medicare and have no need to go to the exchanges. The younger populations-such as the millennials–are assumed to be web savvy from birth.
The delivery of healthcare is already evolving digitally–particularly in the areas of the electronic patient and in mobile health applications. For Senator Reid to make such a statement concerning the inability of older Americans to “understand” the internet not only is insulting but shows a complete lack of connection to and respect for the very people he claims to want to protect. Seniors are more web savvy now and are able to access the web in a variety of ways–there is data from non biased scientific surveys (such as those conducted last year by Pew) to substantiate my statement. In reality, his comments are a sad attempt to explain the inexplicable–why do the Democrats in Congress continue to hang on to a system that is clearly failing?
The ACA continues to suffer setbacks–most of them at the hands of the President who has dedicated his legacy to its success. The latest delay (or accommodation, as the Obama Administration prefers to call it) is more about the lack of enrollees and less about the ability of older Americans to successfully interact with the internet. Many seniors are surfing on a daily basis. The internet is not the problem with the ACA and healthcare reform–rather it is the legislation that is broken and badly in need of a fix.