THE BLOG
10/24/2013 09:25 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Getting It Right

Let's begin with the requisite disclaimer: the rollout of Healthcare.gov was poor. Depending on your political persuasion and level of expectation, adjectives will be added and comparatives will abound. As the House Democratic Leader in Georgia, I have not spent the past three weeks gnashing my teeth about the failure of the roll-out and what it presages about the Affordable Care Act.

Instead, I have worked with our caucus members to host a multitude of ACA townhalls across the state of Georgia where we have explained what the Exchanges will do and why Medicaid Expansion is an imperative that we are sadly forsaking. If you've ever attended a state legislator's convening event, you'll know that seats are always available. Yet we have been pleased by the robust turn-out and the level of engagement. The citizens who leave work a few minutes early to join our discussions come not because of the haranguing that Secretary Sebelius is taking from the left and right, they come because they understand what Healthcare.gov really is -- a proxy for a safety net sorely lacking for too long.

The current kerfuffle over the botched launch will eventually morph into a debate about the cuts in DSH payments to safety net hospitals and then into rants about reimbursement rates and fee schedules. America will be righteously indignant about Obamacare for months and months to come. That's okay. This is a sea-change in America's economy, and it will be uneven, unfair and unpredictable. But we have to get it done and get it right.

In Georgia, we have a high uninsured rate, an urban-rural divide that will lead to starkly different premiums and a horrible gap in coverage because we are refusing to accept the $32 billion in Medicaid Expansion funding that will cover our working poor, 25,00 veterans and protect our rural hospitals. As a small business owner, I am sympathetic to those who are struggling to figure out exactly what this will mean for those who are in that 50-plus employee range and who are calculating the impact of the subsidies on the bottom line. But I am equally sympathetic to my constituents who work for these employers and who are calculating how much pay they'll lose because they got sick at the wrong time on the wrong job.

Remedies are available for most of the ills of Healthcare.gov and the ACA, and as a nation that prides itself on innovation and reinvention, we are honor-bound to find the right prescription. A few years ago, my business partner and I launched a products company. We did almost everything right, including convening our manufacturers in a room and having them walk us through every step of production. In that hours-long confab, we discovered glitches that could have cost our fledgling company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We fixed the issues, went into production and got ready to deliver our first big order. Then, on the eve of delivery, we discovered that our labels were buckling due to the creative engineering of our bottles. Panic set in for a few seconds, until we realized that we had an obligation to our shareholders and our customers to solve the problem. So we sat at Lara's dining room table and hand-applied new labels well into the night to the amusement and grudging admiration of her husband. In the process, we realized that the solution wasn't simply to reapply labels but to change the shape to make it easier. What we didn't do was shut down our business or tell our customers to come back later. Business doesn't work that way and neither should the Affordable Care Act. Because America is ready to get covered.

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