The Congress is the arm of the United States government that is tasked with initiating policies and passing them into laws. The legislature determines the provisions of the policies before they debate them and indeed, pass or reject them based on their ideologies and political interests (Adler & Wilkerson, 2013). In the health sector, there have been many laws and policies that have been passed with the aim of providing quality healthcare. However, several factors determine the congressional agenda based on the health policies that are at stake. This paper will discuss the history of health policy as well as the available data on the manner in which the congress has focused on health policies. The driving forces to this focus will be enumerated while the impact of the congressional attention to the health policies will also be discussed. Before the conclusion of this paper, the various events taking place that have reduced the congressional attention to the health policy will also be discussed. Ultimately, the theories that could be used to explain the health policy trends will put into perspective.
History of Healthcare Policy
The policies in health sector started with the enactment of the Social Security Act in 1965 and approval by the then president of the US. This Act and the subsequent amendments made introduced Medicare health coverage to people over the age of 65 (Chassin & Loeb, 2011). The Act was further amended in 1972 to extend the cover to the disabled. In 1973, the then president Richard Nixon signed Health Maintenance Organizations Act into law. There was even more concern in the following years for the cost of healthcare which led to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. Also known as Obamacare, the Act extended the coverage of health insurance to more American citizens through the individual health insurances and employer provided plans (Chassin & Loeb, 2011).
Data on the Congressional Focus on Healthcare
There has been an increasing trend in the focus of health policies by the Congress in the period between 2000 and 2008. In this regard, 87 laws on health have been passed within that period with 15 being passed in 2001-2002, 19 in the years 2003-2004, 23 from 2005 to 2006 and 30 in the year 2007-2008. This shows an increasing trend which is displayed in the figure below.
Figure1: the healthcare laws passed in the congress from 2001-2008
The increasing trend is, however, changed with data showing that the congress has passed very small amount of laws between 2008 and 2012. Specifically, the healthcare policies passed between this period total to 67, this being 30 polices in 2007-2008, 27 in 2009-2010 and 2011- 2012. The data on the same is best displayed by the chart below.
Figure2: the healthcare laws passed in the congress from 2008-2010
Driving Forces/Actors That Would Have Had an Impact on the Congressional Attention on Healthcare
Several factors could have had an impact on the Congressional attention on healthcare in the period between 2001 and 2008. The first is the in response to the demands of the citizens and various groups such as the human rights organization. In this regard, they could have advocated for the enactment of the Affordable Care Act as well as other legislations related to healthcare. It could also be pressure from the foreign governments such as the UK and the political parties (Democratic and Republican) to pass healthcare laws (Adler & Wilkerson, 2013). The concern from the congress could also be caused by political reasons as they could use the laws as the basis of their campaigns for reelections.
Events Taking Place That Would Explain a Low Focus in Congressional Attention on Healthcare
Political factors are the ones that led to the slowdown in the congregational attention on healthcare in the years between 2008 and 2012. In this regard, there were various ideological differences in the Congress, which is the legislative house. This was because the Bills on healthcare emanated from the president and most of the members of the Congress did not want them due to various provisions that they were uncomfortable with (Kraft, Michael and Scott Furlong, 2015). It could also be the case that the costs that came about with passing the healthcare laws put off the Congress members who were supposed to pass them. Lack of activism from the citizens could also have been the cause for the small attention that had been directed to healthcare policies.
Theories That Could Explain Trends in Healthcare
The increased attention to the healthcare policies can be explained using the political systems theory. In this regard, the laws were passed because of the demands for affordable and quality healthcare from the public (Sabatier & Weible, 2014). However, the elite theory could be used to explain the trends in the slowdown in enactment of healthcare policies between the 2008 and 2012. In this regard, the healthy, famous, and highly educated are the ones that did not want to lose any further business by the government enacting healthcare laws that would deprive them of the money that they extort from the patients. Notably, according to Cain (2011), the elite class will always favor those laws that serve their interests. As result, healthcare laws that will not favor their business interest would be opposed. The context of this explanation is the attempt by the congress to pass healthy eating laws that would lead to the loss of profits by business organizations such as the hotels and restaurants.
Adler, E. S., & Wilkerson, J. D. (2013). Congress and the politics of problem solving. Cambridge University Press.Cain, S. A. (2011). An elite theory of political consulting and its implications for US House election competition. Political Behavior, 33(3), 375-405.
Chassin, M. R., & Loeb, J. M. (2011). The ongoing quality improvement journey: next stop, high reliability. Health Affairs, 30(4), 559-568.
Comparative Agendas. (2016). Comparativeagendas.net. Retrieved 16 June 2016, from http://www.comparativeagendas.net/usKraft, Michael and Scott Furlong. (2015) Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. Sage Press.Sabatier, P. A., & Weible, C. (Eds.). (2014). Theories of the policy process. Westview Press.
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