October 27, 2013

Something Worth Waiting For?

If I didn't know any better I would think that the Healthcare.gov website is the single most important issue facing our country today.

Not our struggling economy or not our inability to get any meaningful, sustainable job growth; not all of the controversy swarming around our educational system, nor our immigration problem, or energy policy, or global warming, or how we protect ourselves from the next SuperStorm Sandy, or whether keeping parks open during a government shutdown constitutes an 'essential service.'

Nope, the most important thing we have to worry about right now is a website. For a program that somewhere between 0 and 100% of Americans "don't like" or "don't want" or "can't afford" or "think goes too far" or "think doesn't go far enough" or believe is "communist" or "socialist" or "has death panels" or fill-in-the-blank from any survey you can find taken over the past three years, since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed.

This pressing issue revolves around how long it takes people to actually do something after getting on the government's new health insurance 'exchange' website. It's clunky, and complicated, and makes people miserable because everything takes too long. Reporters have been wringing their hands over the risk that all of those young healthy people that we need signed up for insurance to level the premium playing field for everyone else will stop trying because they won't stand for something that doesn't give them immediate gratification. And of course politicians from both sides are clamoring for a delay in implementation of the individual mandate, because the website is bad (as if it will never ever ever function as envisioned).

Folks have reported waiting for a very long time - apparently hours in some cases -- to try and apply for health insurance.  I got in last night and was advised, in just a few seconds, that I needed to visit the NY State of Health, the exchange for New York residents. That deflection prevented me from having to go through the account setup, income review, etc. that is contributing to the clunkiness and lack of responsiveness people have experienced since the exchange opened on October first.

And so, given the number of people complaining about having to wait for the federal or state exchange, I thought it would be interesting to point out a few things that we fickle Americans ARE willing to wait for, to try and get some perspective.  

One thing that we do stand in line for, in some places for hours, that is worth it?  Voting. There are thoughts that, as new voter ID laws go into effect in several states, these lines will get longer. But a line to vote is a line I would absolutely stand in.

We're willing to hang out for lots of other things, too.

For example, here are thousands of people waiting to sing for American Idol judges.  According to the report with this photo,
People from all over have flocked to Gillette Stadium ...with hopes of getting their talent noticed... Thousands were in Foxboro Thursday to register and have returned as auditions get underway.

And then there's this great little video, showing people camped outside a Best Buy store waiting for Black Friday sales last year.  Listen to the incredulous child wonder what on earth is going on:
Whoa! More people? Mama, more people? Oh my God! Why are there more people?
And perhaps you were standing in a line somewhere back in May, waiting to by a $600M Powerball ticket? This picture was posted on Twitter by Ken Smith, a reporter for a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas.

Lotteries are illegal in Nevada, so many folks buy tickets in California.  Per an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, one lottery seller in Nipton noted that
Last night, I heard some people had to wait nine hours in line.
And then there's concert tickets. 

People will stand in line for quite a while waiting for concert tickets - as I did once many years ago to see The Rolling Stones.  Earlier this year, when tickets went on sale for the New York State Fair, there was a minor uproar when folks who got there early were not able to get the seats they wanted. The woman who was first in line to get tickets for a Justin Aldean/Luke Bryan concert was there for 26 hours and left disappointed with the seats she got, which were in the 9th and 10th rows.
I just love this band and I'm so disappointed to stand in line that long. Twenty-six hours, I must be insane to do it.
Um, perhaps. But not so crazy as this: have you ever heard of a cronut? It's a cross between a croissant and a donut, with some kind of cream filling and flavoring.

Apparently they're all the rage at a bakery in Soho, according to an article published in July by Business Insider.

That article included a link to another, which had this picture by AndyBCampbell, showing the horde of people waiting in line for their limit of two cronuts. For hours. Yes, for hours.

I'm thinking I don't like most food enough to stand in line for very long waiting to get some.  We did stand in line a couple weeks ago for some piping hot apple fritters, but it was for all of about ten minutes. Had it been a much longer wait, and had we not been first in line, I'm pretty sure we would have just gotten in the car and gone home.

But standing in line or waiting to get stuff is not a new phenomenon. People have been waiting in line at concession stands, amusement park rides, and public bathrooms for decades.  And we'll wait for sneakers. And Harry Potter books and movies. And, of course, iPhones. How can we forget all those people who hired other folks to wait to purchase their new phones? 

In the end, after reading about so many Americans waiting for so many frivolous things, I can't help thinking that signing up for health insurance, especially for people who have gone so long without it, would be worth the wait.

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