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Presidential delay of cooking the bacon

By Jim Killebrew

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[March 05, 2014]  We now have news the Democrats want to delay even further the rollout of Obamacare. Since there are several Democrats seeking re-election in the fall, they are plagued with the prospects of having to defend the negative fallout from the implementation of the government insurance act that affects people's healthcare. So, an announcement was expected on Tuesday, or sometime during the week, of another major delay in the implementation process of the Affordable Care Act to deflect the negative effects to those Democrats who have to run in districts where the act is highly unpopular.

The new announcement to delay the implementation of Obamacare will offer a new directive that will pave the way for insurance companies to go back to issuing healthcare policies that people have had in the past, even if those plans do not meet the minimum standards set by the Obamacare minimum coverage requirements. Millions of people lost their coverage because the Affordable Care Act defines the care in their current policies as substandard as compared with the requirements of the Obama plans.

Aside from the fact that many of the people who had their policies canceled because it didn't meet the requirements of the government plan, if the same plan is reissued based on the new directive, doesn't that negate the intent of the Affordable Care Act to provide a higher quality of product to the American public? Further, by delaying the implementation until after the midterm elections, doesn't that beg the question about the action being taken purely for political reasons? Of course the full implementation of the Obamacare would have resulted in millions more having their plans canceled just weeks prior to the Election Day in November.

So, the question of delay is obviously, "Will this help or hurt the midterm election?" Of course it is obvious the Democrats believe this maneuver will serve as a help to them. Aside from polls and pundits, there is a definite learning principle at play with all the delay of the implementation. That learning condition lies in the operation of operant conditioning.

Losing one's insurance policy is not a pleasant experience. In fact, it is a very punishing experience because it leaves the policyholder losing the insurance coverage that has been paid for throughout the policy life. The policy has given "peace of mind" knowing that when the policyholder needed expensive medical care, it would be available without hassle. Most people think that losing a policy like that is actually aversive and would try to avoid experiencing that aversive loss for as long as they can.

In learning theory, especially in operant conditioning, simply put, there are only four things applied to a person that will directly affect behavior. Those four things are (1) giving the person something they really like; (2) giving the person something they really don't like; (3) taking away something the person really likes; and (4) taking away something the person really does not like. Now, if we agree that when one loses their healthcare insurance policy, it is a devastating thing and has a very negative effect on them. It is something they would really like to avoid if possible.

Now enters the voter with an insurance policy he really likes. He has already seen the consequences of millions of people losing their policy, the tremendous problems associated with trying to interact with the government's exchanges, and what will happen when he is not covered by the policy he has paid into perhaps for many years. The administration has decided to make use of learning theory principles to remove something aversive.

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Of the four consequences listed above, two will increase the strength of a behavior and two will decrease the strength of a behavior. Increases are a result of "reinforcement" being used to follow the behavior, while decreases are a result of "punishment" being used to follow a behavior. The types of reinforcement used are both positive and negative. Both result in the behavior being increased in strength, or repeated.

Think about it. If there is a foreboding event coming in a person's life, something that is dreaded, feared and makes the person afraid, they wish with all their might that the horrible thing could be removed from them. When that happens, whatever it was that stopped the bad event from happening is called negative reinforcement. So the next time something bad is going to happen, the person wants the same event to "take it away" like it did before. That is what the president is doing.

When both types of reinforcement are used at the same time, it has a more powerful effect on the behavior. If you give a person something positive while at the same time taking away something aversive, the result is a powerful behavior effect that will likely be repeated. The administration knows that and is attempting to use it with the delay of the implementation of Obamacare.

Here is how they hope it will work:

Voters are very displeased at having the Obamacare insurance thrust down their throats. They have seen the aversive effects it has had on the people during the implementation phase. Each time a large group of people lose their insurance or encounter any other aversive side effect of the implementation, it makes people angry, and they tend to blame the president for the pain they feel. So the president had decided to "take away" the aversive pain of losing their policy just prior to the election (negative reinforcement). He "gives" them a positive reinforcement by delaying the inevitable pain by making it go away, not to come until another day. People are happy because they don't have to experience the pain, and even happier because they may not have to experience it for a long time to come. Hence, they will pull the lever for their Democrat friends who voted for the bill in the first place so as to give them another chance to get it right the next time.

The greatest problem with that method the president is using with his "pen and phone" to change the law once again is that there will be a reaper who will visit the people some day. There is going to be a "day of reckoning" after the election is over. It may save the president's bacon and his supporters who brought to law to the American people, but you can be sure the bacon of the American voter will eventually be cooked!


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