Health care in the United States of America is currently in crisis and soar need for sustainable reform. One of the barriers on the way to meaningful changes is political polarization, for the schism in opinions as to what direction healthcare policies shall take leads to inaction. Unfortunately, in the words of President Trump, “Inaction is no longer an option”; hence, certain measures should be taken in the nearest future to address the issue.
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I propose a project that encompasses three steps, successful completion of which may raise awareness about the healthcare crisis and bring about much-needed reforms. First, one should shed light on the significance of the problem, for it seems to be often underestimated or dismissed. Once relevant statistics are gathered, and general public sentiment is assessed, it is imperative to raise awareness among the citizens of the United States. Lastly, the House Committee of Energy and Commerce should be notified about the current situation and citizens’ needs. In case I succeed in appealing to the authorities, the project may provide an impetus for positive changes in the country’s healthcare system.
Significance of the Issue
The existing two-party system in the United States is far from robust since the parties will not make a compromise. On the contrary, Republicans and Democrats express more and more polarizing views, and one of the usual subjects of their debates is health care. For instance, Republicans oppose the idea of a unified healthcare system in the sense that it might deprive citizens of the freedom of choice between various options (“Republican Views on Health Care”).
In 2012, the party opposed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as the members and adherents saw the reform as another occasion of Democrats imposing their power. Liberal-leaning citizens welcomed the reform as for them, ACA ushered the country into “a new era in health care, an era in which the right to health care is a public matter” (Kirsch 1747). That has not happened, and the country has yet to overcome such challenges as:
- Rising health care costs;
- Uncertainty as to how to regulate the system. Insufficient regulation is contributing to the rising costs of medical services;
- Federal funding;
- Medical advancement challenges;
- Training and education challenges and so on.
In order to tackle the enlisted issues, it is crucial to examine public views, citizens’ leanings, and health choice tendencies. It is fairly challenging in a large country with an ever-increasing population that boasts the diversity of backgrounds and pluralism of opinions. Further, each decision-making institution should recognize its role in the process of reforming the healthcare system and take the necessary measures to bring about improvements.
Healthcare reforms cannot be merely top-down decisions anymore since if certain groups of the population reject a change, their resilience and refusal to participate may pose a risk to the integrity of the entire healthcare system. For instance, a study by Basu et al. showed that a significant number of individuals who were critical of President Obama’s administration were unwilling to enrol for Affordable Care Act despite its cost benefits (11).
Statista provides further eye-opening statistics about the public opinion on ACA. When first heard about the concept of ACA, 60% of respondents reacted more or less positively to the very idea (“Sympathies for Obamacare”). However, in 2018, 39% would welcome the repeal of ACA whereas only 31% would strongly dislike it (“U.S. Adults’ Feelings about Repealing”). This division in opinions and patterns of behavior in line with political views should be further investigated.
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- A systematic review of available statistics on public polls should be conducted to get a better grasp of the current situation;
- There might be cross-sectional studies with a broad sampling scope, where citizens would be asked about their preferences. It would be especially useful to assess respondents’ needs with no regard to their political leanings;
- We should establish main sources of information used by respondents to find out how their decisions are influenced.
The plan above serves two purposes: maintain interaction with the general public and learn what might have the most impact on their actions regarding health care.
The Role of the House Committee of Energy and Commerce
The House Committee of Energy and Commerce is the oldest legislative committee in the US House of Representatives. The institution has the responsibility for the legislative oversight, and health care is within the scope of this responsibility. The project aims at contacting and interacting with the House Committee of Energy and Commerce for a number of reasons:
- Among the Committee members, Democrats and Republicans are represented equally (“About Energy and Commerce Committee”). Hence, one may speculate that there might be no prevailing leaning in their decisions;
- The Committee has broad legislative jurisdiction which accounts for more careful and balanced legislative oversight. The latter is especially needed due to the fact that states now have more leverage over government programs and services.
Therefore, the Committee may play a significant role in rebuilding the health care system in case:
- The members will become more aware of the shifts and tendencies in public opinion. The Committee is currently supervising and controlling the work of state agencies. However, an effective response that targets all levels requires a comprehensive overview of citizens’ concerns;
- The members will reconsider their manner of interacting with mass media. It is not rare to witness a biased representation of the Committee’s decisions. Distorted facts only contribute to political polarization which can be slowed down or put to a halt if such powerful institutions as the Committee of Energy and Commerce exercise more self-agency in its media portrayal.
Lastly, the House Committee of Energy and Commerce should be concerned with the issue of health care and political polarization due to a significant drop in approval ratings and looming re-election.
The complexity of the problem in question cannot and should not be underestimated. I am well aware that the changes do not happen overnight, and in the future, many other measures will have to be undertaken to overcome this predicament. In the project proposal and memorandum, two main directions have been outlined. First, an open dialogue with the public will be needed at all times. I envisage more longitudinal studies the objective of which will be the evaluation of the public opinion.
At the same time, to raise citizens’ awareness, large institutions should position themselves as reliable sources of information to stand the competition with mass and social media influencers. All in all, relieving political polarization and eliminating its adverse impact on health care is a work in progress that will require conscious efforts from both citizens and authorities.
“About Energy and Commerce Committee.” Energy and Commerce Committee. Web.
Basu, Anirban, et al. Political Polarization. Anticipated Health Insurance Uptake and Individual Mandate: A View from the Washington State. 2014. Web.
Kirsch, Richard. “The Politics of Obamacare: Health Care, Money, and Ideology.” Fordham Law Review, vol. 81, no. 4, 2013, pp. 1737-1747.
“Republican Views on Health Care.” Republican Views. 2014. Web.
“Sympathies for Obamacare When First Heard About among U.S. Adults 2017.” Statista, 2018. Web.
“U.S. Adults’ Feelings About Repealing the Affordable Care Act 2017.” Statista, 2018. Web.