This month, in preparation for the November mid-term elections, we checked in with the professors who teach health policy in the EMBA for Physicians program.
Dr. Stuart Altman, who teaches Issues in National Health Policy, is the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy at The Heller School. He is an economist who has five decades of federal and state health policy experience within government, the private sector, and academia. He currently chairs the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, which was created in 2012 to monitor health care spending growth.
Dr. Michael Doonan, who teaches State Health Policy, is an assistant professor at the Heller School and the Program Director for the Master of Public Policy program. Before coming to Brandeis, he had roles in the Senate, the Clinton Administration’s Health Care Taskforce, and with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He is currently the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum and Director of the Council for Health Care Economics and Policy.
Below is their perspective on the importance of health policy for practicing physicians in light of the upcoming election and what physicians can expect to learn in their classes.
“For evil to succeed good people must simply do nothing.”
Health policy is in danger of becoming less informed and effective if physician leaders do not engage. It will be more likely to endanger public health. Managers need to react to the political challenges and adapt organizational structures accordingly. Leaders influence and make change. Physician input is essential to create better systems that more effectively serve patients, organizations, communities, and the nation.
Perhaps there was a time when physicians could be more introspective and focus solely on the patient before them or the needs of a particular hospital. This is no longer the case. It is essential to understand how complex political policy change impacts access to care, reimbursement of care, and ultimately the quality of care.
The Issues in National Health Policy course provides a historical and contemporary examination of American health care systems programs and policies. This includes Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, historical efforts at reform, drivers of health care costs, and the history of payment and delivery systems. It helps answer the question of how we created the current system and the more difficult question of where are we heading.
The State Health Policy course examines state and intergovernmental relations. It looks at the range of state health care responsibilities including public health, Medicaid, licensure, insurance/health plan regulation, and more. It provides specific tools for engaging with policymakers and directly influencing policy change. This includes interviewing a senior policymaker in your state, drafting op eds and letters to the editor, and writing and presenting legislative testimony on an issue of concern.
Taken together these courses open up the black box of the policy process. It is essential for physician leaders to not only manage change but to effect it and lead it. Today policy is being driven far too much by emotion, feeling, and partisan bickering. These need to be replaced by reason and the insight of people who both understand health care and who are committed to improving patient and population health and the efficiency of the overall health care system.