Of all the trillions of dollars the United States spends each year, almost 30% of federal spending goes towards healthcare. Medicare and health spending occupies a huge slice of the “budget pie.” Time and time again, administrations make promises and pushes regarding healthcare policy-making, and promote these issues as fundamental focuses of their campaigns or terms in office.
So, if trillions of our taxpayer dollars are funneled into an an area where decisions made are decisions for our future as patients or those who care, this money should be spent on representing our interests and an improved quality of life. So, who makes these decisions about medical safety, quality, and access for the diabetes and patient community?
Health Policy Ideas: Where Are They Born?
Any sort of government policy is formulated in order to solve a perceived issue. These issues are brought to the attention of people in policy-making and those who enact healthcare policy change largely through the voices of the constituents, or through policy-makers acting on what they think constituents want. Additionally, policy-makers push around the priority of specific policy issues due to their own party agenda, funding, reelection prospects, media, personal experience, and visibility of issues.
Often, legislators, representatives, and executives forget important things – such as the fact that those with and affected by pre-existing conditions are part of their constituency. They forget us in making our life-altering decisions. The main issues contested by Congress in once-prospective legislation, like the Better Care Reconciliation Act, are therefore potentially not initiated through listening to those affected by diabetes, or by patients in general.
In healthcare, the voices speaking out with new policy proposals range from those interested in a party agenda to those with more monetary incentives: insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry, among others. This range of influences often does not consider the patients’ perspectives.
Patients CAN Influence Major Policy Decisions
The ways health policy ideas related to diabetes can be promoted to priority issues or a public consensus is simple (see page 7). People with or affected by diabetes within a certain constituency must share their personal stories, speak through media and direct contact, and gather into organizations like the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (DPAC). They must make issues of diabetes safety, quality, and access into high-visibility issues. In this way, the legislators and representatives vote based off of issues affecting constituents in the patient community.
Through calling representatives to address problems concerning the safety of diabetics in hospital settings or the quality of the diabetes education given to patients, patients can be a significant “who” in the equation of who makes policy decisions. Through letting other patients with diabetes know that they may not have access to accurate glucose monitors, members of the diabetes community can ensure that senators, no matter their party orientation, pay attention to ground-breaking research comparing the quality of testing kits and vote to continue protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
Senators, representatives, constituents, interest groups, coalitions, executives, lobbyists, companies, insurance, pharmacists, medical professionals, researchers, reporters. Each of these is a part of the “who” in making decisions in health policy.
The patients are the most versatile deciding member because they can speak up to individuals or groups in any of these levels or areas.
More on Safety, Quality, and Access in Policy-Making
DPAC focuses on safety, quality, and access for the diabetes community. Patients can gather information about these issues through investigating, supporting, and spreading research findings in any of these realms – whether they relate to diabetes technologies or the most helpful, tested health policies to assist patients with diabetes in getting the supplies they need.
DPAC does this sorting and investigating for the patient community, so that patients have a starting point, a game plan, and means to start being the “who” of political decision-making immediately.