The Art Of The Possible

Friday, May 10, 2013


The presentation by the two attorney/consultants was only 45 minutes long. It just felt like four hours. They were on firm ground when they stayed in the tax and law side of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Sure they got lost in the details and seemed compelled to flash every detail at their audience, but what they lacked in presentation skills was more than made up with the depth of their knowledge. That was as long as they didn’t venture into my area. They were lost when it came to the insurance part of the new law. Couple their confusion with their power-point skills and you have the perfect recipe for an agitated audience.

The young business owner seated next to me opined that none of this might matter much if the next administration reverses the law. I laughed and reminded her of the Republican’s love for the PPACA. We both just shook our heads. She isn’t old enough to remember when Democrats and Republicans actually worked together in Washington. She would never believe that Otto von Bismarck once remarked that “Politics is the art of the possible”.

There appears to be plenty of politics in Washington, but nothing seems possible.


This blog has discussed the numerous shortcomings of the PPACA for over four years, a full year before the law was even passed. But pretending that last year’s Supreme Court decision or the November 2012 election didn’t happen is not productive. We can’t all be as unproductive as the Republicans of the House of Representatives:
House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that next week’s vote to repeal the health reform law is being held to provide new lawmakers a chance to vote on it.“We’ve got 70 new members who have not had an opportunity to vote on the president’s health care law,” Boehner said. ‘Frankly they’ve been asking for an opportunity to vote on it.”
Politico

That doesn’t mean that nothing is getting done and that no one has reached across the aisle in an attempt to make the PPACA work. It simply means that you have to look a lot closer to home if you are hoping to find anything positive.

The Ohio chapters of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) held their annual Day at the Statehouse last week. This is the trade group that represents health insurance agents. We were in Columbus to hear from some of the legislators that are the most involved in our area and from Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor who also serves as the director of the Ohio Department of Insurance. Our afternoon was taken with appointments with various legislators. I was scheduled to meet with State Senator Scott Oelslager and the effervescent Minority Whip of the Senate, Nina Turner who represents me in Columbus.

Some of the states that have both Republican governors and Republican led legislatures have chosen to fight the PPACA. Still! We in Ohio are fortunate to have realists in Columbus. And though these leaders have taken a lot of heat from members of their own party, they continue to work through the process even though they disagree with the PPACA. Our first speaker was Representative Barbara Sears the sponsor of the recently signed H.B. 3. As Majority Floor Leader of the Ohio House Representative Sears shepherded the rules that would establish the training and responsibilities of both agents and navigators in the new exchange system. This is legislation that had bi-partisan support. While some states are satisfied with turmoil and the possibility of the PPACA dying under its own weight, Ohio is taking some of the steps necessary to make it work.

Lieutenant Governor Taylor’s presentation also gave me hope. Regardless of what she personally thinks about the PPACA, Ms. Taylor is committed to doing her job as director of the department of insurance. A big part of that job is reviewing every policy that will be allowed to participate in the Ohio exchange. That exchange is supposed to be available October 1st. As of last week ZERO policies have been presented for review and approval. No insurer wants to go first. She is already making plans for the onslaught she is anticipating in mid-June. If there is going to be a problem with the exchanges, it won’t be because of Mary Taylor.

Regular readers of this blog know that I don’t spend a lot of time complementing our elected representatives as a whole and even less on Republicans. I certainly did not vote for Governor Kasich and disagree with most of his positions on major issues. But you have to admire any leader, Democrat or Republican, who puts his state’s needs first.

My first appointment was with Senator Oelslager from Stark County. I was there to talk about other ways to help our clients get through the coming transition. None of my issues had anything to do with me, personally. We needed to talk to the legislators about S.B. 9 which cleans up the old, but soon to be unneeded, Ohio Open Enrollment Program. We also wanted to alert the legislators that Ohio still defines full-time as 25 hours per week while the PPACA uses 30. You get the idea. Cleaning up these and other seemingly small conflicts will save our clients big headaches in the future. So that was the purpose of my meeting with Senator Oelslager.

We spent the first ten minutes talking about the Kennedys. Republican Oelslager was inspired to go into public service by John and Robert Kennedy the way countless young men were inspired to pick up a guitar after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I found him to be engaging and well-informed.

My only disappointment of the day was that Senator Turner was called into a meeting. I instead met with her bright and energetic Legislative Aide, Adam Warren. Mr. Warren was an excellent substitute. I hope to have more conversations with him in the future.

So what I have learned is that politics is still the art of the possible. We just have to limit our discussion to the actions of our state legislators. It’s a start.