Lessons from Disney World for Obamacare

By D G Martin | Nov 06, 2013


What does Disney World have to do with Obamacare?

There is an answer, but you will have to read on a little bit to get there. First, there is this grandfather’s testimonial about a wonderful experience at Disney World last week. Watching grandchildren experience the magic of the Disney kingdom was a treat of a lifetime.

Fun and exciting rides, a realistic safari experience, a rocket ship trip to Mars, a dramatic flight over California, a Star Wars space flight dodging the forces of the Empire and more.

But it did not start out that way.

At the check-in at one of the Disney hotels, each of us got a bracelet that took the place of a real key or key card. Brush the bracelet by the door handle, and the door unlocks. And there is no need for tickets to the Disney parks. The bracelet contains all the information about what rides and times we have purchased.

Just brush the bracelet by the gate, and a green light signals admittance.

At least that is the way it is supposed to work. However, when our group arrived at the 9 a.m. park opening time, rushing to meet a 9:15 “fast pass” date for the Buzz Lightyear ride, the green light did not come on when my bracelet passed by the entry gate. The same thing happened to my son-in-law, Cotton. So we had to stay behind while the rest of the group hurried to Buzz Lightyear.

The park attendant sent us the guest relations window to get our problems resolved. After a long wait, a Disney crew member, Mindy, checked our records and confirmed that we were entitled to enter. She pointed us to another place in the park to get our bracelets reprogrammed. More time lost.

“That won't do,” Cotton said. “You could do that right here, couldn't you?”

She could, and she did. For our trouble, Mindy gave us a paper voucher good for one quick entry to any ride that day.

Meanwhile, her supervisor, Travis, explained that the bracelet system was still being tested. “We are in beta test-two, and are having an 85 percent success rate. We think 85 percent is pretty good.”

Pretty good, unless you're part of the 15 percent whose bracelets do not work.

But for the next three days we became part of the 85 percent. It was smooth sailing. At every ride, green lights signaled our entrance to the fast pass lines. Every vendor accepted our bracelets as payment for the many things we and our grandchildren wanted.

It turns out that we were part of a massive transformation that will cost Disney a billion dollars to put bracelets on all visitors and connect them to everything Disney. Testing has been under way for most of this year.

Disney plans to recoup the billion dollars and much more by increasing convenience for its visitors. It will also be collecting more and more personal data about those visitors. It will follow them throughout the park, learning what appeals to them. A Disney actor playing Mickey Mouse will be able to greet each visitor by name, even wishing a Happy Birthday on that special day. Disney can give each visitor tailored opportunities to spend more and more while in the park and also after returning home.

So, what is the connection of Disney’s billion-dollar wristband project to Obamacare? It is a simple reminder that even one of the largest, most successful, and experienced consumer-service companies cannot bring out a massive new computer-based system without confronting and fixing a multitude of unplanned kinks.

If we can understand why Disney might not get it exactly right on the first try, we should give Obamacare a little slack, too.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Gary Arrington | Nov 08, 2013 19:34

The key difference between this cute story and Obamacare is, if you miss getting on a kiddie ride, you'll still be OK. But if your insurance has been cancelled and you can't enroll in Obamacare...well, that's a little more serious.

I also noticed the writer stated that Disney had been testing this process for most of a year. If it's important enough for Disney to test for a year, why wasn't important enough for Health and Human Services to test for a year?

Finally, none of my federal tax dollars is going to Disney to develop their program, but at least $350 billion of Americans' taxes has been spent on the Obamacare website.

Sorry, no slack for this farce.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Nov 11, 2013 08:35

    Gee, Gary, I guess you missed the point of the story.

   Considering the outright fight against the 'Obamanator from the beginning of his election, it is amazing he has accomplished anything. Especially since he got saddled with two un-funded Wars, un-funded pill program, etc bush-babie left him with.

      Chuck Z.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Nov 11, 2013 17:00

I think Mr. Arrington might have a good point.  It's an over-simplified comparison.  More accurately, Disney trying to do what Mr. Obama is doing would be like: changing all of the rides with new operational and service manuals for Disney to figure out, no longer accepting Visa or MasterCard but taking payment by payroll deductions that need to be setup, and creating a monitoring committee that would take the data collected from your bracelet that would deny you more than "x" many times on any particular ride.  And if your bracelet doesn't work when you show up to try out the new program, THAT'S only the part comparable part to the website not working.

Posted by: Gary Arrington | Nov 13, 2013 09:38

Correction to my earlier post...the amount spent on the website should have been $351 MILLION...not billion.

Mr. Zimmerman, your posts are full of  the same old political rhetoric that leads nowhere in an intelligent discussion of the issues. Acromonious and venomous rants rarely lead to level-headed reasoning.

Really, it doesn't matter which side of the aisle you fall on, the rollout of Obamacare has been a fiasco. It's not only the website, but the 5 million people who have lost their health plans, despite the President's promise that you can keep what you have. Even former president Clinton now favors changing the law. Other Democratic leaders are calling for change. This morning, an announcement that the website will NOT be ready on Nov. 30. It just keeps getting worse.

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