By Matt Johnson
As part of the Health Care UST MBA’s spring Health Care Policy course, I had the distinct privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C., last week on a “field trip” led by the Honorable Senator David Durenberger. Our trip just happened to coincide with the Supreme Court listening to arguments about President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A truly historic time to be actively engaged with Washington insiders as they discussed key health care issues. Over the course of two and a half days, our cohort had the opportunity to listen and interact with more than 25 of these political insiders from both sides of the aisle.
After digesting the hours of discussions we consumed, it would be very easy to leave depressed and cynical…and some of us did. I was impressed with the company of my Cohort 18 colleagues as they fired off relevant and astute questions to the likes of sitting U.S. Senators, powerful lobbyists, consultants, scholars, journalists, the U.S. Surgeon General and the many influential people with whom we interacted. As I reflect on our D.C. adventure, it gives me continued hope that the future of how health care is delivered and managed in this country is as much our responsibility as any politician’s. As health care providers and leaders, we must increase our active engagement in these discussions and influence the policy makers accordingly.
Norman Orenstein, a journalist and co-author of the soon to be released book, It’s Even Worse than it Looks and self-described “centrist,” spoke to us about the asymmetrical polarization that exists in American politics these days. Using the analogy of a football field, he reflected on a time in politics when the Republican Party and the Democratic Party would meet at their respective 35-yard-lines, but weren’t afraid to cross midfield from time to time when it made sense to get something done in a bipartisan manner. He went on to say that with today’s “tribalism mentality,” the Democrats have retreated to their 10-yard-line and the Republicans have moved completely off the field behind the goal posts vowing to never break party lines. How can Congress accomplish anything functional with this approach?
It is easy to sit on the sidelines and watch, but as health care leaders, we must get on the field ourselves and be actively engaged. A key observation by my classmates was that there seems to be a tremendous lack of education about health care reform. It seems that many people are sucked into a vacuum of polarizing ideologies and believe all of the rhetoric they are hearing in the news and social media; clinging to buzzwords and phrases that continue to divide and serve little productive purpose. Educating the population to the core facts seems to be an essential piece to addressing the mess we are in with health care delivery, spending and coverage. It is not a partisan problem, it is one that we all must face and work on together.
Matt Johnson, MA, is the Executive Director of the Holzer Cardiovascular Institute and Holzer Internal Medicine and Medical Subspecialties, departments of the recently merged Holzer Health System in Gallipolis, Ohio. He is a member of Cohort 18 of the Health Care UST MBA program.