Public opinion has the power to influence a vast variety of decisions that governments make, especially when it comes to issues that affect citizens directly. Health care policies can change depending on the nature of public opinion since matters of health have always been a concern for the majority of citizens. Ranging from high prices on prescription and over-the-counter drugs to policies regarding abortions, the public has always been invested in communicating their opinions to the government. In their study on whether public opinions have a role in influencing the diffusion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Pancheco and Maltby evaluated several components of policy feedback to determine how citizens communicate their opinions to both local and federal health care agencies (309). The researchers found that policy feedback mechanisms were crucial in influencing officials’ decisions; for instance, gubernatorial announcements regarding the ACA led to the public becoming more aware of the possible changes in policy and therefore encouraged feedback. It is also important to mention that opinion-learning mechanisms were also found to promote the sharing of public opinion by means of providing signals to elected officials whether decisions of health care policies within states were viable. Since it has been shown that public opinions played a significant role in shaping health care policies, it is essential to point out that some states could emulate the decisions made by other states that have identical environments for shaping policies when deciding on what changes should be incorporated in their healthcare systems.
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According to the recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of January 2018, health care was found at the top of the problems that voters wanted their elected officials to discuss, with 39% Democrats, 32% independent voters, and 13% Republicans giving feedback; (Kirzinger et al.). These statistics show that public opinions are interested in influencing further health policy decisions, especially in the context of the upcoming midterm elections. The poll showed that the U.S. public was favorable in their opinions about the potential of the ACA, with 50% of respondents indicating that they would support the policy (Kirzinger et al.). Attitudes toward ACA are essential to recognize because, in 2017, Republicans made an attempt in repealing the Act but failed to do so due to the inefficient support from the public (Cunningham).
In the context of discussing how public opinions could influence health care policy decisions, one should recognize that differences in political views of citizens play a significant role. For instance, Republican voters were the most opposed to increasing spending on welfare and entitlement programs (58% and 51% respectively) compared to independents (30% and 25%) and Democrats (11% for both programs) (Kirzinger et al.). These findings show that health care policies that support the vulnerable populations in the country could depend on the decision that only Republicans express since the government is led by this particular party. The divide in opinions on health care policies is dangerous for the current U.S. society since the lack of unity in public attitudes toward different issues could lead to ineffective change and the dominance of elected officials who choose not to listen to what the public has to say. In the light of the current social and political opposition within the society, it is important for people to come together regardless of their political views and communicate their opinions to the government to shape those health care policies that would be the most beneficial.
Cunningham, Paige. “The Health 202: Health Care Is Still a Top Issue for Voters in 2018. But Republicans Lack a Script.” The Washington Post, 2018. Web.
Kirzinger, Ashley, et al. “Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – January 2018: The Public’s Priorities and Next Steps for the Affordable Care Act.” KFF, 2018. Web.
Pancheco, Julianna, and Elizabeth Maltby. “The Role of Public Opinion – Does It Influence the Diffusion of ACA Decisions?” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, vol. 42, no. 2. 2017, pp. 309-340.