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11-11-13 Midnight: A Last Minute Rescue Plan for the Affordable Care Act?

By B. Helton
Nov 12, 2013

Once the clock strikes midnight whether you live in an Asian or a North American time zone the calendar advances by a single day and what a surprising difference that can make in human behavior. Today, the calendar has advanced from 11-11-13 to 11-12-13 cueing Chinese singles to stop buying expensive electronics as it also creates a big bump up in the number of American couples getting married.

Peculiar as this may seem, 11-11 already has an outsized effect on the world's economy. This anti-Valentine's Day celebration is held every year on 11-11 because the date consists of four single digits: 1-1-1-1, plus it is aggressively marketed in China under the banner of "Guanggun Jie." In fact, yesterday's Chinese retail sales were larger than Cyber Monday in the U.S. with an estimated $5 billion spent online alone. It's an arbitrary holiday, but that's nothing new. This Singles' Day is also an example of a causal behavioral definition that entices 180 million singles to party and socialize with other Chinese singles or for a lucky multiple-thousands of Chinese singles to marry their sweetheart a day earlier than what so many of their counterparts are doing today in North America.

That's because 11-12-13 is a sequential date that's seen by many Westerners as a "Lucky Day" (or at least an easy to remember anniversary date) to tie the knot. More than ten times the usual number of couples will marry today than on a similar weekday in November. Unlike 11-11 this is a one-time novelty—at least for a century; except for 12-13-14 in the U.S.—thus the overall effect on social behavior will be minor in comparison.

I for one, have long wanted to shift U.S. Fathers Day to the first Saturday in October (see First Definitions Prevail - Father's Day Observance in America for six behavioral reasons to make this calendar date change), but that's another story. And even though the arbitrariness of a date or the shift of Father's Day may seem a bit kooky, holidays, novel strings of digits and dates on a calendar prompt our behavior and on a massive scale. Just think about the observance of Thanksgiving later this month.

What interests us at Open4Definition is how definitions like this recently coined 11-11 Singles' Day almost effortlessly change the behavior of tens of millions. We've researched and written more than 225 similar stories, a fifth of which are in our new book HealthCARING: A Reset for Health and Healthcare.

HealthCARING shines a light on causal mechanisms like designated driver, secondhand smoke and opt-out organ donor laws that positively cue healthier behavior and translate what we've long known about illness prevention into the power of routine action. These health-related definitions are worthy of celebration (and emulation) whether you were a partying single yesterday, getting married today or until now totally unaware of 11-11, 11-12-13 or the latent power packed into an equally health-friendly definition like healthcaring.

The idea behind healthcaring is to upgrade the behavior and health decisions of millions, simply and inexpensively. That's because improvement starts with one simple question: "Is this healthcaring?" It's also a message that missing in the Affordable Care Act. Let's marry them up. What auspicious date would you choose for this wedlock?

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