I’ve read lots over the last few days about the fifth anniversary of the (Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act’s passage. In reading them, it seemed that they fell into three distinct categories:

1) Mournful Reflection. For some, March 23 is always a painful day of the year. They look back and remember the world as it was and wish that nothing had changed. I’ve been in this place too … about a girlfriend. But about a piece of legislation? Never. One of many overused quotes about business is that the only constant is change. Get over it — it was never as rosey as you remember it, and if you live in the past, you’re blind to the future.

2) Birthday Celebration. On the other end of the scale, this anniversary was celebrated the way that nearly every parent approaches a five year old’s birthday party. We’re incredibly happy over where our beloved child is – potty trained, able to communicate and move around, and have friends and interests; they’re people without the baggage. But we have lots of memory issues about how we got here: sleepless nights, diapers, and a year of “no!” and “why?”. But if this is your first child, there’s growing up looming ahead: school, peer pressure, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Enjoy the cake – it doesn’t get easy from here.

3) Complete Reflection. Some approached the anniversary as a chance to perform a detailed map of how we got here and to be impartial in their review. This clinical approach feels like one part historian and two parts colonoscopy. I’d never want to read a therapist’s notes on a patient’s visits over a five year time frame, and frankly would just as soon forget the ups and downs of the last five years. Too much reflection feels creepy.

For me, March 23 was just another day. My daughter turned 18 last week and my parents just celebrated 50 years of marriage. I’m more worried about helping people know how to do 1094 and 1095 reporting, to care about remembering the panic of initial grandfathered plan guidance and the drunken aftermath of reading about measurement periods.

Maybe my attitude is about the way this started. Five years ago today, my boss sent an email to all of our employees saying that the ACA would be a good thing for our business and we should figure out a way to help our clients and grow as a result. That kind of foresight would have helped a whole lot of people sleep better over the last five years.

Smith is vice president, health & welfare benefits, at Ebenconcepts in Fayetteville, N.C. Reach him at dcsmith@ebenconcepts.com.

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