Obama Press Conference Reaction: Success = Results – Expectations

It’s Wednesday July 22nd late in the evening as I write this, and I just got back from a brisk walk by the White House (two nights in a row with exercise…pathetically, a record for me in 2009!) where I stood outside the gate (sweating profusely in this humidity!) watching all the media hubbub, security officers, and tourists in the post-Obama press conference on healthcare reform. I can’t sleep because I’m still on west coast time. And because I am swirling with thoughts and emotions from a day of Capitol Hill visits with key Senate offices working on healthcare reform…punctuated by this Presidential press conference. So I will convert this insomnia into blog-omnia.

How do I sum up the speech? It was simply okay—with important elements for reform but without a bold, inspiring vision of where we’re headed. Now that’s a surprising thing for me to say because, if I step back from it, Obama was articulate, rational and logical in his thinking, funny, knowledgeable, able to answer questions with detail and examples…all of which left me feeling like he’s a real leader with command of…and commitment to…these issues. The level and quality of discourse coming from President Obama are so refreshing and re-inspiring every time I hear him speak.

But…I am reminded of a life formula that Colin Evans, a friend and mentor at Intel, once taught me. I call it “Colin’s Law.” It’s a formula that says “Success = Results – Expectations.” This law reminds us that expectations management is key because you can drive really good results, but if you’ve promised people the moon, then they are bound to be disappointed if you deliver anything less, even if you did amazing work.

I had really high expectations for the President’s speech. I have come to expect him to be amazingly articulate, and he was. And since he has described our mission as true “healthcare reform” and spoken time and time again about “fundamental change,” I have high expectations that we’re really going to change things. But the speech didn’t feel hugely successful because my expectations were so high. I wanted to hear a bold vision of change, to understand his plan and strategy for implementing that change, and to have my President enlist me as a citizen in a new social contract where I can help be part of improving healthcare in America. I didn’t get those things I expected, so I am left feeling like it was simply okay.

Nonetheless, I did hear him reiterate many concepts and ideas that are fundamental for moving us towards a model of Personal Health. Here were some highlights I jotted down:

1) Why we need reform now: uninsured, loss of coverage for those who are insured, real threat of Medicare/Medicaid bankruptcy, opportunity cost for what else families and our nation could do with that wasted money

2) Need for a system focused on wellness, prevention, and use of information technologies to drive efficiency

3) Reform means doctors being paid for quality of care, not quantity of care; doctors being incentivized to work in teams that coordinate with one another

4) His 2/3rd and 1/3rd explanation of how to pay for reform—and his clear principle about where the “extra money” should come from

5) Extending the deadline to get reform right…but being clear about why Congress needs a deadline and needs urgency

6) A commitment to covering 97-98% of all Americans…because there are always outliers

7) And his call for Americans to be more discriminating consumers of healthcare

Actually, as I list all of these out, I realize that these are important foundations for reform. And that the President has been consistent about these. I guess where I feel like we’re lacking results so far is seeing these principles and ideas translated into the bills being proposed by Congress. We don’t have the final versions yet, but I’ve read every line of every one of the early versions from the House and Senate so far. It’s hard reading for someone like me who has no training in bill-speak and government language. So it’s hard to feel confident that the bills deliver on the simple-language examples the President talks about.

So the President and Congress now need to help manage our expectations…help us understand when this will happen, how it will happen, how long it will take to happen, and what role we all need to play in its execution. If we’re really aiming for big time reform, then tell us that. If, because of economic or political realities we’re only going to be able to make some small tweaks, then tell us that, too. But don’t promise us major reform while delivering on only small tweaks. They could all benefit from a quick lesson in Colin’s law; while expectations aren’t everything, they are definitely something to take into account.

So did you watch it? If so, what did you think? What were you expecting? What did you hope for? (And don’t tell me anything about So You Think You Can Dance, since I missed it tonight while watching the President.)

It’s Wednesday July 22nd late in the evening as I write this, and I just got back from a brisk walk by the White House (two nights in a row with exercise…pathetically, a record for me in 2009!) where I stood outside the gate (sweating profusely in this humidity!) watching all the media hubbub, security officers, and tourists in the post-Obama press conference on healthcare reform. I can’t sleep because I’m still on west coast time. And because I am swirling with thoughts and emotions from a day of Capitol Hill visits with key Senate offices working on healthcare reform…punctuated by this Presidential press conference. So I will convert this insomnia into blog-omnia.

How do I sum up the speech? It was simply okay—with important elements for reform but without a bold, inspiring vision of where we’re headed. Now that’s a surprising thing for me to say because, if I step back from it, Obama was articulate, rational and logical in his thinking, funny, knowledgeable, able to answer questions with detail and examples…all of which left me feeling like he’s a real leader with command of…and commitment to…these issues. The level and quality of discourse coming from President Obama are so refreshing and re-inspiring every time I hear him speak.

But…I am reminded of a life formula that Colin Evans, a friend and mentor at Intel, once taught me. I call it “Colin’s Law.” It’s a formula that says “Success = Results – Expectations.” This law reminds us that expectations management is key because you can drive really good results, but if you’ve promised people the moon, then they are bound to be disappointed if you deliver anything less, even if you did amazing work.

I had really high expectations for the President’s speech. I have come to expect him to be amazingly articulate, and he was. And since he has described our mission as true “healthcare reform” and spoken time and time again about “fundamental change,” I have high expectations that we’re really going to change things. But the speech didn’t feel hugely successful because my expectations were so high. I wanted to hear a bold vision of change, to understand his plan and strategy for implementing that change, and to have my President enlist me as a citizen in a new social contract where I can help be part of improving healthcare in America. I didn’t get those things I expected, so I am left feeling like it was simply okay.

Nonetheless, I did hear him reiterate many concepts and ideas that are fundamental for moving us towards a model of Personal Health. Here were some highlights I jotted down:

1) Why we need reform now: uninsured, loss of coverage for those who are insured, real threat of Medicare/Medicaid bankruptcy, opportunity cost for what else families and our nation could do with that wasted money

2) Need for a system focused on wellness, prevention, and use of information technologies to drive efficiency

3) Reform means doctors being paid for quality of care, not quantity of care; doctors being incentivized to work in teams that coordinate with one another

4) His 2/3rd and 1/3rd explanation of how to pay for reform—and his clear principle about where the “extra money” should come from

5) Extending the deadline to get reform right…but being clear about why Congress needs a deadline and needs urgency

6) A commitment to covering 97-98% of all Americans…because there are always outliers

7) And his call for Americans to be more discriminating consumers of healthcare

Actually, as I list all of these out, I realize that these are important foundations for reform. And that the President has been consistent about these. I guess where I feel like we’re lacking results so far is seeing these principles and ideas translated into the bills being proposed by Congress. We don’t have the final versions yet, but I’ve read every line of every one of the early versions from the House and Senate so far. It’s hard reading for someone like me who has no training in bill-speak and government language. So it’s hard to feel confident that the bills deliver on the simple-language examples the President talks about.

So the President and Congress now need to help manage our expectations…help us understand when this will happen, how it will happen, how long it will take to happen, and what role we all need to play in its execution. If we’re really aiming for big time reform, then tell us that. If, because of economic or political realities we’re only going to be able to make some small tweaks, then tell us that, too. But don’t promise us major reform while delivering on only small tweaks. They could all benefit from a quick lesson in Colin’s law; while expectations aren’t everything, they are definitely something to take into account.

So did you watch it? If so, what did you think? What were you expecting? What did you hope for? (And don’t tell me anything about So You Think You Can Dance, since I missed it tonight while watching the President.)

3 thoughts on “Obama Press Conference Reaction: Success = Results – Expectations

  1. Eric – Obama and Congress are missing two key elements in healthcare modernization:
    1) There are no details in the proposed government-run health plan as to what is covered and to what extent, yet there’s a price tag already in place. This is like going to buy a car and negotiating the price, then choosing the car after the deal is done. Who in their right mind would agree to such a deal?
    2) No one in all this discussion ever mentions personal accountability for one’s own health. Studies have shown that 50% of one’s overall health status us the result of personal choices – what we choose to eat or not eat; how much or little we choose to excercise; whether we smoke or drink alcohol. Americans, rather than hold themselves accountable for their own actions or inactions, would rather get a pill to treat their symptoms, which only drives up utilization of health care resources and funds. Several studies have shown that the current generation of elementary school-aged children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents’ generation – the first time ever in U. S. history. And the underlying reason is that kids watch their parents closely and copy their behavior – sitting in front of a computer or TV, not being physically active, and eating the wrong things. If we are truly looking for a way to reign in health care costs and consumption, this is the are on which we should focus our collective effots.
    Obama noted we spned $6,000 more per year on medical care per person than most other western nations. Why? 1) Americans have become the most obese population in the world: 2) doctors have to practice defensive medicine to avoid getting sued (where is the tort reform in all this?); 3) Our country allows direct-to-consumer drug advertising and it works really well – just ask a doctor; 4)We pay the same for poor quality care as we do for high quality care, something no consumer would ever do when purchasing a consumer good or service.
    It makes no sense to create an insurance solution for 100% of the population when we need a solution for about 17% of the population, which does not include illegal immigrants who choke our hospital emergency rooms for free health care paid for by taxpayers. Reform is needed, to be sure, but not in a massive dose of one-time overhauling. There needs to be an insurance mandate for everyone (as in many states that require us to carry liability coverage on our automobiles) – that will get the many younger uninsured invincibles into the system which spreads the health risk over a larger population. In turn, this would allow the health insurance industry to eliminate pre-existing condition limitations, which it has publicly said it will do with such a mandate.
    As far as Obama’s talk went last night, I was disappointed in the lack of any new information or greater detail than we already know of. He was not particularly inspiring on any one point, and to me seemed not to have the concrete answers this issue requires. But I do agree that reform is needed – I just hope that Congress and Obama take appropriate time to consider a more tactical approach rather than trying to bulldoze our country into further massive debt we can’t currently afford.

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  3. I watched Obama’s press conference on health care reform, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I think he is wise to withhold declaring a lot of details at this point, because in today’s political climate, precise details could be used as ammunition for those who want to shoot down the whole reform effort for no reason other than the fact that they want Obama to fail. Healthcare reform is so complex and so necessary that it should not be rushed. The public (who have no direct vote on the issue) should make their wishes known to their representatives in government and hope that the final bill is real reform.
    I have had considerable experience with the healthcare industry in recent years, and I am very thankful that I am among those who have good group insurance coverage through my husband’s employer. My experience started with a pedestrian knock-down accident. I was the pedestrian. This can happen to anyone, including the young and healthy who might think they don’t need healthcare insurance. They must be in the pool, in the same way that we all are required by law to purchase auto liability insurance. If I had not had insurance, there is no doubt that I would be permanently crippled today, because there is no way that we could have afforded the medical treatment, and repeated orthopaedic surgeries that I had.
    I agree wholeheartedly that everyone must take responsibility for their own good health. Those who engage in unhealthy habits (smoking, overeating) are not entitled to the same level of healthcare at the same cost as those who maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, weight control, and good eating habits. In the same way that drivers who have accidents or traffic violations are charged higher ins premiums, people who are overweight, smoke, and refuse to exercise should have to pay higher healthcare premiums.
    Among the many areas that I think need to be reformed, the top 2, in my opinion, are the insurance companies and the drug companies. They both need to be more closely regulated. Insurance companies should not be able to dictate the course of treatment that a doctor and patient agree upon. Neither the doctor’s malpractice ins, nor the patient’s medical ins should have that authority over the dr-patient relationship. Furthermore, ins cos should be required to inform the insured exactly what the benefits are, and there should be no penalties or withholding of coverage for pre-existing conditions. My 86 yr old mother’s insurance, which previously was a supplemental policy that paid 95% of what was not covered by Medicare, changed her coverage, without notification, to be “co-ordinated” with Medicare. Now they pay up to 80% or 85% of the total cost, after Medicare has paid. This usually amounts to less than $10. If she changes ins carriers, her prescription drugs will not be covered because of “pre-existing conditions”. No one should be forced into this delimma.
    Drug companies should be prohibited from advertising to the public. This would cut their costs, which should then be passed on to the consumer by lowering the costs of drugs. There should be a limit placed on the period of time that cost of a new drug can be high to pay for the R&D. After that the cost should be commensurate with actual production cost.
    Insurance companies should not be able to dictate which drugs are prescribed. It is not unreasonable for them to charge a higher co-pay for a brand name drug IF there is truly a generic form of that drug available. But if there is no generic, the patient should not be penalized with higher co-pays. This whole business of “preferred” and “formulary” drugs is interference by the insurance (and drug?) companies into an area that should be between the doctor and patient.

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