How Do You Spell "Knife"?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

There was a time when children would ask a parent or a teacher how to spell a particular word. The adult would inevitably send us to the dictionary. This would often prove to be a lesson in self-reliance, problem solving, and phonetics. But English being English, a dictionary search could also be a frustrating waste of time.

Senator Sherrod Brown invited me to a seminar. The invitation stated that he was bringing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Cleveland on August 8, 2013 to answer questions about the Marketplaces or Exchanges. I emailed my RSVP within minutes of receiving the invitation.

We have all seen a young cheerleader whoop it up after her side’s quarterback has thrown an interception, totally unaware of the gravity of the situation. Well, in the last few weeks I have been on two phone conference / webinars with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As previously noted, the government employees hosting the meetings were woefully unprepared. Cheerleading permeated each seminar. After a basic slide show presentation high on platitudes but almost bereft of facts, questions were thrown to the hosts, who, like the Browns’ receivers, quickly dropped them. These meetings were frustrating wastes of time.

I was counting on Senator Brown to host an informative meeting. Based on the email address, I could tell that this invitation was sent to his supporters, people who had worked on the campaigns and maybe even donated to his campaigns in the past. This was going to be a friendly crowd.

The seminar was scheduled for 5:30 – 7:00 PM at The City Club. That lack of awareness should have been a tip-off. His staff didn’t know that the Browns were playing their first preseason game that night or that the Indians were hosting a Dollar Dog Night game against the Detroit Tigers. Both a few blocks away.


By the way, it shouldn’t be necessary to note this, but the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) lives at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Senator Brown bringing in HHS should be the equivalent of having a Supreme Court Justice explain the Constitution.

Wrong Again

Arriving at 5 PM, I knew I had wasted my time the moment I walked into the empty room. Instead of the Senator and an advance team, I saw a couple of staffers and Sherrod on a screen in the front of the room. All they had to do is hit play and we would be treated to a quick canned intro from the Senator. If this presentation wasn’t going to be good enough for him to show, I already knew that I had blown $20 on parking.

The room was eventually filled with leaders of various not-for-profits, Democratic activists, and the terminally confused. There were only three insurance agents in the room. The vibe was positive right up until the presentation started.

Our young presenter was from Chicago. We knew this because she mentioned it, and her need to catch a plane, frequently. Being from out of state was a double liability for her. She was not prepared to discuss the new regulations and she was often wrong about the Ohio health insurance marketplace. Worse, the audience quickly sensed her numerous shortcomings.

Ms. Chicago may have left her pom poms at home, but she was a determined, if not talented, cheerleader. She begged the audience to remember www.healthcare.gov. Begged is not an exaggeration. She told us that the government’s website is the answer to every question you could possibly have about health care and the solution to ANY problem you may ever encounter.

I was sitting next to the executive director of one of the dread disease foundations. My tablemate, a young woman in her early thirties, quickly grew frustrated with our presenter’s mistakes, inability to answer the most basic of questions, and repetition of the website address.

If someone representing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can’t answer a basic question, who can? I asked a question about the Personal Responsibility Fee, which is the new Orwellian way to say the Individual Mandate. I won’t bore you with the question. She couldn’t answer it. Worse, she said that the answer would have to come from the Internal Revenue Service. THAT IS WRONG. The IRS may have a hand in administering the PPACA, but HHS is writing the rules.

But we still have the website. Good luck finding the answer to your questions there. And we still have dictionaries. The huge Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language sitting on my bookshelf may have almost every word in the English language, but it is still a challenge to find the correct spelling of some words. Sometimes it’s darn near impossible. Don’t believe me? Have your child look up "knife".

DAVE

www.bcandb.com