Wednesday, April 10, 2013


On Explaining the Health Law Simply
I wish he would explain his explanation.
Lord Byron (1788-1824), Don Juan
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Sayings
Why is President Obama having such a hard time explaining the health care law simply?  Why can’t he simply explain it in one paragraph? Or explain it in terms simple folks, who are groping for an explanation, understand?
The simple explanation? It’s complicated. It effects every American. It’s 2700 pages long. It’s written in legalese. It requires 15,000 to 20,000 pages of regulations to enforce. 
Another simple explanation is that it has taken four years of rollout. It’s difficult, if not impossible  to follow its shifting  permutations, combinations,  and deviations.
Another  simple explanation is that it’s unilateral partisan passage under questionable circumstances poisoned the political well, inviting devisive, obfuscating, non-believing political opposition. 
Yet another simple explanation is that it means so many things to so many different people at so many different times in so many different ways at so many different levels, that nobody understands it , which explains why Surviving Obamacare, which explains it to  each and every constituency, is a runaway best seller.
The final simple explanation  is that you cannot explain simply a one-size-fits-all- top-down controlling,  centralizing philosophy to a national audience that  prefers bottom-up personal choices and freedoms.
Why Explain?  It’s the Law
On the other hand, why explain?  As the poet, W.H. Auden explained,
Law, says the judge, as he looks down his nose.
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more.
Law is the Law.
The law, after all,  is the law.  It’s the law’s way, or the highway.
You need not simplify the law, or apologize for the law,  or explain the law. That would be a sign of weakness.  
In other words, what is is. The law, in short, is immutable, with all of its flaws.
But What If?
But what do you do if the law is weak, not carefully thought through,  loaded with adverse consequences,  more expensive than promised,  riddled with loopholes,  and slow and tortuous to implement?
What if people prefer the status quo to a government hammer throw?
And what do you do, when, three years after its passage, it has  failed to live up its promises  - to lower costs,  to protect patients, to improve access, and to improve care.
Then, what do you do? You try to explain the law,  you revisit it,  you clarify it,  you amend it,  you tweak it, you offer waivers to your friends,  you revise it, but never, never, do you repeal it or admit it might fail.  None of these action, alas, make it simpler to explain.
In the end,  what do you do,
When your health law you can’t simply explain,
Or explain simply,
When most of the people still complain,
Or deem your explanations as limply,
When it effects every constituent in a thousand different ways,
When the law is a bewildering, convoluted health care maze,
What do you do?
You blame the opposition  in language  profane,
You accuse them of being unfeeling and inhumane,
For not understanding the depth of your knowledge,
And the profound wisdom of the electoral college.

Tweet:   Beyond good intentions, the convoluted health reform law is difficult and impossible to explain simply.

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