A policy can be described as a plan of action adopted by a state, individual or groups of individuals in order to realize a given set of goals and objectives; it is a framework of ideas put together to guide the achievements of certain objectives within an institution. A policy is utilized to make some rational choice within an organization or institution.
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A public policy can be defined as a course of action adopted by the state or government with regard to specific issues of national or international concerns. A number of scholars have defined a public policy as a set or specific regulatory measure and laws regarding certain concerns that are promulgated by government agents, organs or institutions.
In the United States of America, the concept of public policy does not only refer to the final outcome of a set of policies, but it also entails the making of decisions and analyses of decisions made by the government. The significance of public policy has prompted the study of the subject in public policy schools found within a significant number of the America’s major universities (Strassmann, 1995).
The public policy is shaped by the influence of the governmental public policy makers, scholars and interest and or pressure groups. In many cases, these shapers of policy have divergent opinions and some times clash with regards to the nature of public policy that should be in place. The consequence of this is that such policies are most likely to become controversial.
This is because, all the stakeholders cannot agree on the nature of the public policy itself. The theme of this paper is about the controversial new health policy in the United States of American initiated by the Obama’s administration. It will examine how controversial it is and the stakeholders involved in the policy process (Marzotto, 2000).
The scope of the healthcare policy concern in the United States of America
The proposal to overhaul healthcare policy within the United States of America began with the heated campaigns by Barack Obama in his quest to capture the presidency of the United States of America in 2008 elections.
The reasons for the new healthcare policy is to ensure low cost healthcare services, sufficient healthcare information and technology, transparency within the healthcare sector or industry, personalized healthcare and access to better healthcare facilities and services by all the public members. The new healthcare policy was intentioned to ensure universal access to healthcare by all the American citizens (Wasik, 2010).
The new healthcare policy is also meant to make health insurance to be more affordable by offering the largest known middle class cut on taxes (Davis, 2009); this is supposed to reduce premium costs for approximated tens of millions of American families and small scale business entrepreneurs who are said to be priced outside the current coverage.
This is supposed to assist approximately over 31 million citizens of the United States of America to get the necessarily required healthcare that they cannot afford today. This is expected to make healthcare coverage to be available to even more American citizens who cannot afford the basic healthcare in the current period (Howard, n.d).
The policy is also meant to lead to the establishment of a new competitive market for health insurance hence offering similar health insurance services enjoyed by the Congressmen and Congress women.
Moreover, the new policy is also expected to curtail abuses of health insurance by health insurance providers which may lead to denied access to healthcare services for many American citizens who may not afford the uncontrolled highly priced premiums.
The policy is also expected to reduce the perceived discrimination against the American citizens who are already having pre-existing conditions when seeking for health insurance coverage (Hadden & Luce, 2008).
The new healthcare policy has been facing a number of controversies due to varied understanding of its impacts on different American people by different stakeholders. Some argued that the new health policy is socialists in nature and may mean that hard working Americans will be paying for healthcare services offered Americans without healthcare insurance.
Moreover, other stakeholders opposed the policy arguing that government intervention is likely to interfere with the principles of free market operations. It this case, the argument is that the health insurance industry should be left to forces of free market operations that are expected to balance market and create low cost insurance premiums by itself (Amato & Neiwert, 2010).
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There has also been an argument that the new American healthcare policy will force healthy people to pay for healthcare services provided to unhealthy people. This implies that the insured relatively healthy people have feelings that the money they pay as premiums will be used to subsidize healthcare services offered to patients or citizens with pre-existing conditions.
The stakeholders and the affected constituencies in the context of the new healthcare plan
There are a number of stakeholders who are concerned with the new healthcare policy proposed by the new Obama’s administration. Some of the most significant stakeholders are the uninsured Americans whose percentage of the total population is said to be big. It is stated in available statistical records that the number of uninsured Americans has been growing significantly due to high premium costs that they could not afford.
These stakeholders are expected to get affordable health insurance premiums and lower the number of uninsured citizens. In this case, the uninsured stakeholders are expected to immensely benefit from the new healthcare policy. The other stakeholders are all the states of the United States of America; it is expected that all the states should adopt the new healthcare policy in their respective healthcare systems.
The states may have varied healthcare policies, however, in the case of the new bill that is expected to revamp the healthcare industry the states are expected toe ensure that every of their citizens get to benefit from the new policy (Levine, 2009).
Again, the other stakeholders are the healthcare and insurance institutions. After the signing of the bill into law, it became an official healthcare policy that must be complied to with all the health insurance providers and healthcare institutions all the United States of America.
The health insurance providers are now expected to lower insurance premium costs so as to allow middle income earners and other uninsured Americans to have access to better healthcare services at low costs.
This also implies that the pricing of health insurance premiums will be under the direct watch of the federal government under the auspice of the state governments that are actually directly responsible for healthcare institutions within their jurisdictions.
Employers are part of the most important stakeholders of the American new healthcare policy; in fact, they can be regarded as some of the most affected constituencies by the new policy. It is expected that the new healthcare plans by the Obama’s administration should be beneficial to the employers who pay for there employees’ health insurance in terms of tax cuts.
It is proposed that employers who prefer to give health insurance to their employees will enjoy a tax cut of approximated to a maximum of 35% of premiums paid annually and an increment of upto 50% by the year 2014. It is estimated that over 60% of employers are likely to be eligible for these incentives.
However, the employers will be expected to disclose the value of insurance benefits they offer to their employees in order to enjoy such incentives.
Political institutions relevant to the healthcare policy
One of the significant political institutions involved in the healthcare policy is the Democratic Party to which the president of the United States of America currently belongs. The new American health plan was one of the policies the Democratic Party had planned to role as soon as it gets into power.
It is important to note that as a party, the Democratic Party had an obligation to ensure that the new healthcare plans is put into place; should be plan have failed, the party will have failed in its policy plans.
Moreover, the other political institution involved in the new healthcare policy is the Republican Party. As much as the Democratic Party considered the health policy an obligation, the Republican Party was a complete contrast and in the process its members completely opposed it.
The Republican Party has never been happy with the new healthcare policy arguing that it is a waste of public resources; the party members also termed the policy as promoting inequity as far as health are services are concerned.
The Independent Party members cannot be left out in the whole issue about the healthcare policy. Some of the members supported the policy formulation process while some went against it. Nonetheless, what remains is the fact that they also have s stake in the new healthcare policy. There are also other political pressure groups and institutions that are relevant to the healthcare policy issue.
Such pressure groups lobby on behalf of their members. Some of the groups are those that support the new healthcare policy arguing that it will be very beneficial to the uninsured Americans while other pressure groups are against it arguing that the policy will be a burden to the healthy insured citizens since their money will purportedly be used to subsidize healthcare services offered to uninsured individuals.
Proposed policies to address the issue
In a bid to strike a compromise with the group opposed to new healthcare plans, several policies have been put into place.
The Obama’s administration has accepted to back undercover investigations that will monitor the providers of health and medical care services to the American people; the providers who will be subject to undercover investigations will mostly be those receiving Medicaid, Medicare and also other programs initiated by the federal government.
Moreover, president Obama also rendered his support for the increment in Medicaid reimbursement to medical doctors in specific states. The Obama’s administration has also backed language designed to ensure that certain high deductible health plans are able to be offered in process of health exchange (Cable News Network, 2010).
The new health bill was passed under the reconciliation rule that would allow it be successful and finally be signed by the president into law. The healthcare insurance providers will be required to cover even the pre-existing conditions for American citizens who seek insurance services.
This implies that the new healthcare policy will ensure that the health insurance providers do not discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions (Cable News Network, 2010).
Solution to the problem
The even though the new healthcare policy has several controversies surrounding it, it came to pass and signed by the president of the United States of America. However, it is not without a solution. There may be many people who are against it, but a middle ground that satisfies all the stakeholders can be found.
First, the Obama’s administration should not exercise extensive controls on the healthcare services; instead of setting restrictions, the government should only set the ceiling and floor prices for insurance prices and let the free market forces top take its effects it the health insurance industry.
Second, the government should determine the level of basic health requirements for all the American citizens irrespective of economic statuses and use the cost of meeting these basic requirements as the point of entry in terms of offering healthcare subsidy. In this case, the government should offer subsidy by meeting the cost of healthcare for everybody upto the limit equivalent to the cost of basic healthcare needs.
Third, in order to avoid the feelings of exploitation by those paying high premiums, as much as the government wants everybody have affordable healthcare insurance, those paying high premiums should be offered more healthcare benefits, otherwise the United States of America may be promoting unfair treatment to its citizens when it comes to healthcare services; in fact, the government may distort the healthcare market segment and hence the whole American economy.
Finally, employers should not be forced to offer insurance benefits to their employees; they should be allowed to do it out of their own free will and as an incentive to attract professional employees. In this case, the employers should be offered with more incentives if they are to provide all their employees with healthcare insurance.
The cost of the new healthcare issue to Americans
It is expected that the new healthcare plan should not have any extra cost the American people. Instead, the new plan will lower the cost of healthcare services sought by the American people. The government will provide certain amount of dollars to subsidize the healthcare insurance hence making all American citizens to enjoy universal healthcare. However, this remains at personal level and only in the healthcare sectors.
Due to this new healthcare plan, the federal government will have to increase its budgetary expenditures in which it will have to inject more finances into the healthcare sector in order to subsidized health insurance plans for all American citizens. The question is about how the federal government plans to raise the amount required for the plan without increasing taxes in other industrial sectors.
As much as the plan will reduce health cost for the American population, they should expect the possible tax rise on other items. Besides, there is a possibility that the upper class members of the American society may be taxed more than any other American citizen as it had been feared earlier on (O’Hara, 2010).
The public policy issue of faced by both the federal and the state governments. Since the new healthcare plan is for all the citizens of the United States of America, all the state governments must come into the picture.
The federal government is expected to provide the funding and the state governments are supposed to implements the new plan by integrating it into their healthcare systems.
It therefore implies that the new healthcare policy is both a responsibility and obligation of both the federal and state governments to the American people. The two set of governments, the federal and state governments, must then work in collaboration to ensure all American citizens get the benefits of the health plans (O’Hara, 2010).
The new healthcare plan was initiated by the Democratic Party under the presidential candidature of president Barack Obama; the new healthcare plans was planned to ensure all citizens of the United States of America would get universal health insurance at low cost premiums and eliminate all forms of exploitations and discriminations by health insurance providers.
The health plan was opposed by the Republican Party members but got strong support from the Democratic Party members. Even so, it passed with majority support. The new healthcare policy is also expected to put checks and balances on the insurance companies to ensure they do not exploit clients by charging unreasonably high premium fees (Davis, 2009).
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