Health Care Legislation on the Brink. Maybe it’s time for … Innovation and Change We Can Agree On

January 20, 2010

Watching the Massachusetts Senatorial election results yesterday, started me thinking back to the Presidential campaign of not so long ago… 

back in the days when BOTH candidates campaigned on themes of CHANGE. 

If we look back on President Obama’s first year in office, few would argue that it has been a Year of Change.  But most would agree, that in one way or another, it was also a year fraught with disagreements across many sectors.  The election of Scott Brown on January 19, 2010 to the Senate seat long held by Senator Ted Kennedy underscores that. 

A Beltway Scramble

Beltway Warriors on both sides of the aisle are now scrambling to develop new strategies on key issues, especially the highly publicized Health Care legislation that is so lengthy, so complicated, and so contentious that if you asked anyone – anywhere  if they agreed with ALL of it,  you would be hard pressed to to find anyone who could answer with a resounding YES!  It’s so full of Promise and Compromise that what started out to be a race horse now looks like a camel.  Some fear it may never even make it to the finish line when most would agree that change is needed.  Others fear it might.

It’s time for Innovation in Washington D.C. not Change.

Innovation to me has a simple definition.  INNOVATION IS DOING SOMETHING IN A NEW WAY TO MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR THE PEOPLE THAT MATTER. 

So here’s my suggestion for a true innovation.  Let’s shift from change we can believe in to Change we can AGREE ON and get it done NOW.

This listing from the Wall Street Journal takes a look at the House and Senate Healthcare Proposals side by side.  In it there are some things that most of us can agree on like

  • removing the ability for the insurance industry to place restrictions on pre-exiting conditions
  • restricting insurance companies from dropping coverage when people actually get sick
  • extending the time period that young adults can be covered under their parents insurance policies
  • making healthcare accessible and affordable for a broader section of the population through incentives or subsidies. 

A REAL change could be HOW we get it done.

Now is the time when the House and Senate are tasked with bringing the two proposals together in a final form.  This is an opportunity to do something in a NEW WAY.  Instead of more horse trading, side deals, and compromises, SIMPLIFY THE PROCESS. 

Pull out each of the key items/issues one piece at a time, prioritize them based on the degree of agreement, and put them to a vote as a stand alone issue. 

Talk about transparency.  No more thousand page documents with hidden deals.  It’s all there nice and clear.  You agree or disagree then vote to decide, send  it over to the appropriate agency to implement if it passes, and move on to the next item.

This would be change the American people could believe in and a change that we could  agree on.  Who knows – we might just make life better for the people – remember us. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker

[Joan Koerber-Walker is a wife, a mother, a small business person, and a voter who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her journey includes executive roles in corporate America, as an entrepreneur, as a community volunteer, and as a non-profit leader.]


Promise and Compromise

January 5, 2010

You’ve probably had the  experience where through the diverse objectives and perspectives of the people on your team, what you set out to create and what you got where not exactly the same.   As concessions are made to reach a point of consensus, a completely different animal begins to takes shape.

It has been said that “a camel is horse designed by a committee.”

Interestingly, having researched this much quoted maxim, there is no true consensus on  WHO actually said it first. 

As leaders, be it in our home, in our business, or  in our community, we are often in a position requiring a promise or commitment.  In many cases, to keep that promise or commitment will require the help of others, and often to get that help, you face a compromise.

When you look at the definition of the words as indicated in the links above, I found something interesting. They both come from the same Latin root – promissus which means to send forth and compromissus which means to send forth mutually  or together.

Over the last two years, watching national and world events, I have seen many examples of this, but no better examples than what we have all watched unfold in Washington D.C.

Throughout 2008, we heard a lot of promises from candidates ranging from local offices up to the highest office in the land.  But, then that is to be expected.  We as a people have come to elect people based on what they say they will do as opposed to what they have done or what they can actually do.  Seem confusing? Here is an example…

On January 11, 2009, the New York Times published a list of Candidate Obama’s Campaign Promises.  They made a truly impressive list.  Yet for the most part, the list was a list of objectives that acting alone, no U.S. President could keep.  (To be fair, if you go back to the ‘promises’ made by the other side, the list was equally impressive and if acting alone, equally unsupported.)   For the reality is, in the United States, we have a system of checks and balances between the Executive Branch, Congress, and The Judiciary.  The Legislative branch makes the law. The Executive branch executes the law. The Judicial branch interprets the law. Each branch has an effect on the other and for any campaign promise to be kept, all three must be in agreement.

To reach that agreement, there often must be concessions and compromises before we can move forward together.  It can be challenging to get TWO people to agree on a contentious issue.  Imagine how much harder it becomes when you are looking at creating consensus among one President, 100 Senators, 435 Congressional Representatives, and ultimately if needed 9 Supreme Court Justices.  Add to that truly monumental challenges like access to affordable healthcare, a less than popular war, a financial collapse, a national deficit so large that the numbers can not be conceived by the average person, and some of our largest states on the verge of financial insolvency. 

Looking at it from that perspective, does it come as a surprise that concessions and trade offs are being made to get ANYTHING accomplished? 

Over lunch with a friend last week, we were discussing what it takes to get things done.  Not just in Washington, but in our businesses and in our communities.  Often, no matter what you do, no one is completely happy with the final result.  In life, just as in Washington, there are trade offs and compromises that must often be made to that we can move forward.  In one way or another, progress comes at a price.

The true challenge, as individuals and leaders, is to have a clear understanding, BEFORE you make a promise, of what will be needed to gain consensus and to get all the support you need to make it happen.  Otherwise, instead of ending up with a sleek and agile Horse, you just may end up spending your days with a Camel!

Thanks for stopping by…Stay Tuned.

Joan Koerber-Walker