Our initial reaction to the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) was that it simply did not do enough to rein in the high - and ever rising - costs of medical care in the United States.
Another unexpressed reason we doubted the advisability of increasing the federal government's involvement in the health care system was that bureaucracy would slow down and harm services.
A recent interaction with the existing Medicare bureaucracy was, therefore, alarming.
On Tuesday, a new Medicare participant was informed by a hospital there was a problem with coordinating benefits between his private insurance policy and Medicare. There was an 800 number in the hospital's letter to contact Medicare's coordination of benefits division.
The new participant called the 800 number and was advised to wait on the line for the next available agent. A robotic voice advised him the estimated waiting time for his call to be answered was between and hour and two minutes to an hour and 16 minutes.
The participant hung up, deciding to call back later - hoping for a shorter waiting period.
He called back a couple of hours later and was advised the waiting time was something over an hour and nine minutes. He again hung up.
He called once more a little after 3 p.m. HST, and was advised the office was closed. It was open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eastern time, obviously.
The story has a happy ending - the new participant was assisted on Wednesday by a very helpful person and a resolution was reached. But the experience seemed to indicate an already overburdened bureaucracy is about to have even more work, and responsibility, shoved on it.
So, the question becomes: Are hourlong on-hold waits about to become the new normal in resolving billing difficulties? Are other parts of the health care system about to be put on hold - waiting for the next available agent?
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.