Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health

Closing the Gap

Published in The Journal Record
January 14, 2015

On November 22, 1963 I was a sophomore at the University of Texas.  I had completed my morning classes and was heading back to my dormitory for lunch, thinking about football practice that afternoon as I was a practice squad player on the eventual National Championship team.  At that moment someone ran past me and shouted that the President had been shot.  That began a series of events over the next several days as millions of Americans not only received the news of President Kennedy’s assassination but also witnessed live the gunning down of his murderer.  By 1963 more than 80% of American households had television sets.  Only ten years prior it was less than eight percent.

Now, more than 50 years later we take for granted the real time exposure to momentous events using our common access to the internet, myriad forms of traditional and cable news, as well as thousands of bloggers.  It is a paradox this very gift of instant access makes the formation of sane and compassionate public policy even more difficult.  This is certainly true in our discussion around what should be the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Since we have the capability of reading and watching ideologues whose policy positions only reflect our own prejudices the opportunity to thoughtfully consider any other opinion outside of our own narrow perspective becomes severely limited.  In other words this great gift of instantaneous news and comment forces us to limit our exposure to fewer and fewer outlets thus making us more narrow minded.

For instance, the debate around expanding Medicaid in this state, and others, to cover millions caught in the gap between where public funding currently stops and traditional employer-based insurance begins.  On one side of the ideological chasm an argument exists that this represents an eventual new burden for this state’s taxpayers versus a fear that our refusal to expand Medicaid only exacerbates a shift of our tax dollars to other states.  The truth is both of these points of view are correct.  Lost in the debate are those working poor who fall in this gap.

Since we have the luxury of only having to deal with opinions that correlate to our own, a sensible solution to closing this gap escapes us.

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