Views from the Heartland: Prospects for Bipartisanship in Health Reform

State Health Policy Leadership Health Care Bipartisanship

Last year’s “repeal and replace” fight in Congress underscored how deep—and deeply confusing—disagreements over health care policy can be.

And if two truisms of social reform policies—that all progress is incremental and durable policies are bipartisan—still hold, then what does that portend for health care policy in the US? David Jones, assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health, followed up last year’s Milbank Fund–supported work on health care values with a trip to two states in the heartland of America—far from the coasts and from the noise of Washington. He wanted to know—in states like Kansas and Colorado where budgets have to be balanced and constituents’ phone calls answered—what Republican and Democrat legislators were concerned about when it comes to health reform.

Jones’ report, Views from the Heartland: Prospects for Bipartisanship in Health Reform, finds that leaders in Topeka and Denver have little patience for what passes for health policy debate in Washington. Bipartisan compromise is tough, he was told, because fundamental differences in values and priorities exist. But compromise is possible, though, if issues are chosen carefully and thoughtfully. And regardless of the issues selected, the health reform landscape is so complicated and important that everybody agrees leadership and resources for strategic planning are absolutely necessary.