Obamacare’s “Mickey Mouse” rollout

Walt Disney shows plans for Disneyland to Orange County officials in 1954.

Walt Disney shows plans for Disneyland to Orange County officials in 1954.

By Jim Tortolano/E Pluribus Unum

A charismatic leader overreaches, or seems to.  His biggest accomplishment starts disastrously.  Poor planning, a fistful of first-day glitches and disappointed customers.  Media criticism, finger-pointing and near-panic.

Sounds an awful lot like a description of the bumpy rollout of “Obamacare,” as one portion of the Affordable Care Act is popularly known. But what I’m describing is the opening of another operation considered by some a folly: Disneyland.

That theme amusement part in Anaheim, California is today one of the top attractions in the world, bringing in millions of visitors each year to Southern California, and it helped transform the Walt Disney Co. from one that merely made animated movies and (let’s face it) some fairly cheesy television programs into a media powerhouse that owns multiple studios, TV networks, cruise operations, planned communities and much more.

Obamacare stumbled out of the gate, to be sure. Too many inquiries crashed the website, and many disappointed and frustrated people have initially turned away. The revelation that some people with existing medical insurance might lose what they have added to the sense that this controversial program may have more than just a touch of Goofy-ness in its implementation.

It seems clear that the Health and Human Services Department, headed by Kathleen  Sebelius didn’t perform due diligence here by not testing the system more thoroughly before the launch. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the thing can’t be fixed or prove to be a success in the mid- or long run.

When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, national attention was focused on this highly speculative venture in the boonies of agricultural Orange County. No one had ever done anything like this before, and many were the voices calling it reckless and a disaster waiting to happen.

A disaster it seemed to be.  Six thousand people were invited, but an additional 22,000 showed up brandishing what proved to be counterfeit tickets. It was the hottest day of the year, and women wearing high heels found their footwear sunk into the still-fresh asphalt.

There was gas leak that required the closure of part of the park, and a strike by plumbers meant that only a few of the water fountains were working. Old-timers called it “Black Friday,” but Walt was not deterred.

The park was open the next day to the general public and it has gone on to become an international landmark in cultural, economic and geographic terms.  Few today would call it anything but a roaring success.

Anyone with more than a nodding acquaintance with reality knows that new stuff has its glitches.  That’s why computer programs are beta tested and ships have “shakedown cruises.”  Did the HHS drop the ball on its duty to keep testing this system until it was as bulletproof as possible? Certainly.

But does that make the idea itself worthy of being scrapped? It’s much too early to tell. If Sleeping Beauty’s Castle collapsed or the Dumbo ride spun children out into space, Disneyland (and Disney) would have been scorned and sued into collapse,

That’s not what happened. Good people worked hard to fix the problems, and the rest is (mostly) pleasant history. Let’s give the folks in Washington a chance to see if they can’t do the same thing and straighten it out.

Rushing to premature decisions until the ACA is given a fair chance is worse than “Mickey Mouse,” it’s childish.  America is the land of second chances. Let’s calm down and let time, not politics, shows us the way.

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  1. Kipp Barker says:

    I think your comment to wait and see how ACA goes after the initial screw-ups is very valid. We can’t lose site of this intention of this law – to provide affordable healthcare to majority of Americans, especially those who need and can’t currently afford decent care.

  2. Carol Treadwell says:

    Obama has done the best job he can under the circumstances. I preferred Hillary Clinton’s plan – but America was not ready. America is still not ready – but here it comes! I have Canadian family; and the country was afraid when medical care became socialized; however now every person there has coverage. The plan is not perfect ; it will need much “tweaking,” but so did the beginnings of our country! Also, it is tiresome to hear of our country being so behind in health care, education, etc. Let’s move on!

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