Robin Strongin

Pundits and political scientists will be analyzing the 2012 elections for some time to come.  On the health care front, though, I think it’s not too early to say that President Obama’s re-election could be termed the Great Reconciling.  As a nation, we seem to have come to terms with the immediate future of health policymaking and this, in turn, opens the door to give greater attention to a number of large issues that warrant national attention.

This is a far different political landscape than the 2010 elections when Republicans made major gains in Congress, largely propelled by fiery opposition to “Obamacare.”  A number of new lawmakers elected that year owed their success, in no small measure, to their promises to repeal a health reform law that had bottomed out in popularity polls.

Compare that to what we’ve seen this month.  The President’s re-election.  One of the symbols of Obamacare opposition, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, being unseated by a fervent advocate of the law, Elizabeth Warren.  A Kaiser Family Foundation poll showing support for Affordable Care Act repeal at its lowest level yet, just 33 percent.  Even House Speaker John Boehner said, post-election, that the Affordable Care Act should be regarded as “the law of the land,” although he later issued a written statement saying he still supported repeal.

This change in atmosphere means a great deal in terms of how energy is going to be expended in Washington.  Instead of fighting tooth-and-nail over what’s been done, lawmakers and policy advocates can accept the fact that the ACA is going to be implemented (although there will still be debates over various matters such as the construction of state insurance exchanges and medical device taxes, among others), and focus their efforts on health issues that have been given relatively short shrift in the political world.

For example:

  • How do we enable health policy to catch up to what the private sector is already doing in health information technology and mobile communications to improve health care?
  • How do we move beyond well-meaning intentions to game-changing actions on wellness and disease preventions to slow the escalation in chronic illness that threatens to overwhelm our health care system?
  • How can we best utilize the various non-physician human resources in the health care sphere to better serve the rapidly growing patient population caused by Medicaid expansion and the soon-to-be-operating insurance exchanges?
  • What is the answer to addressing the health disparities – be they gender-based, ethnic or socioeconomic – that will likely still exist even with the implementation of health reform?

I could go on with a list of health care challenges far longer than any reasonable blog post should extend.  The point is, we will be better off as a society if we can now focus on these extraordinarily important issues instead of fighting yesterday’s battles.  Let the Great Reconciling begin.

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