At the beginning of February, I had the fortunate opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to learn more about health policy for the upcoming year. First of its kind, the USC DC Health Policy Forum was initiated to expand students’ knowledge of health policy making (or lack thereof, given the current political environment) and to appreciate the intricacies—trade groups, academics, congressional committees, executive branch, etc—of passing health reform. While the forum was primarily targeted to EMHAs and alumni, being the one of two current MHA students did not hold me back.
The day and a half seminar was filled with diverse, experienced speakers. Some of the institutions represented were the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Academy of Medicine, Federation of American Hospitals, and the American Medical Association, among others. Each of the speakers had 30 minutes to speak with 10 minutes of Q&A. With so much to take in I came out of the seminar with three key takeaways.
- Passing health reform in America is very, very difficult. From the SGR fix to the delay of the Cadillac Tax, deals/concessions have to be made. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for instance, required the Obama Administration to “cut deals” with the likes of PhRMA (Big Pharma’s trade association) and the American Hospital Association; without such closed-door negotiations the ACA would not be here.
- With chronic diseases on the rise, combined with an aging population that continues to live longer, how will Medicare pay for such services without bankrupting the federal gov’t? Unfortunately, that question remains.
- “Single Payer? Not on the agenda!” – Professor Paul Ginsburg
Attending a seminar like this may not lead to a job or internship, but it will challenge your preconceived assumptions, grant you the ability to intelligently discuss some of the pressing issues of today, and expose you to policymakers that, in one way or another, have an impact on your everyday life. As a student, I would suggest you take advantage of the opportunities available to you.
Vivek Patel, MHA ’16