Year end roundup and thoughts on blogging

I spent last week in Disneyworld with my family. I love Disney, so it was awesome. It wasn’t even the rides. Any week I get to spend the majority of the time holding my kids’ hands is a win.

But I found that I didn’t check the news at all. Not once. They could have repealed the Affordable Care Act and I would have had no idea. When I got back, I just deleted the entire RSS news feed that had built up and started anew. You know what? Nothing had changed at all.

I saw the exact same stories finding examples of people who had lost their insurance. I saw the exact same stories about people who had gotten new insurance. I saw the same (albeit updated) horse race stories about how many people had signed up for Obamacare. I saw the same predictions of doom from the same exact people over and over and over again.

It’s all a bit tiresome, no? It is for me at least. I’ve talked with Austin more and more lately about how I’m feeling a bit over this. Maybe it’s end of the year rush, or maybe it’s just that I needed a break, but the feeling is there nonetheless. I do think, though, that part of the problem is that I’ve been feeling boxed in by the media narrative right now.

That storyline is dominated by screaming over whether the ACA is a success or a failure. It’s overwhelmed by a need from partisans to own the landscape and the megaphone as to whether Obamacare will hurt or help America. The problem is that it’s not evidence based. At least, not at this time. How could it be? The law doesn’t even go into full effect until tomorrow. Even then, it will likely take years (yes, that long) to know whether it’s actually doing more good or bad.

That’s how we do things over here in empirical land. After the years it takes to land a grant, and the years it takes to do a study, you spend a lot of time analyzing the results and trying to get them published. It’s a long, hard slog, and it takes a fair amount of patience. But you don’t write about the results until you have them, and you don’t scream predictions at the top of your lungs to drown out people who think otherwise.

I love research. I love science. That’s why I got into this gig. I wanted to use data and evidence to help change the health care system for the better. The activities that take advantage of that are the ones that bring me the most reward at the moment. I think part of the problem is that I’ve allowed myself to be pulled from that wheelhouse into the more traditional noisiness of health care media. In the new year, I’m going to make an effort to pull back. I don’t want to cover the horse race. I don’t want to make baseless predictions (for which I’ll never be held accountable nor admit I’m even the slightest bit wrong). I don’t want to discuss the politics. I don’t want to focus on laws over policies.

Most of all, I don’t want to get into fights.

I’m going to make a serious effort to make my stuff better next year, even if that means there’s less of it. Three and a half years in, I could not be more proud of this blog, or the people who contribute to it. As always, I’m grateful that you come to read what I (and the others here) write. We really do appreciate your support.

I hope your new year is everything you hope it to be.


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