The current global situation, especially in the US, is very shaky in terms of provision of good and affordable health facilities. The issue is particularly directed on the US because it has always been the leading in the number of immigrants, who go through all kinds of physical and mental torture due to violation of human rights. This improper behavior gives rise to complicated health conditions that need to be addressed as an emergency issue. Since such immigrants are minute figures in the society, they do not have the voice to fight for their rights and that is when interest groups come in. These are groups of people or organizations that raise issues of public concern and call for possible proposals and solutions. There are times when citizens feel like they want some policies changed or be implemented in some ways but there plight fails to get to the authorities.
Healthcare has been a subject of interest in most countries of the world and this has become an emergency issue because of the emergence of certain viral diseases like SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu just to mention but a few. Several organizations have come up to boost healthcare systems especially in countries with inadequate facilities to ensure the safety of citizens. The organizations also monitor the institutions assigned by the government to dispatch medical equipments and ensure they are equally and fairly distributed, reaching the rural and remote areas. Some of the organizations offer the healthcare services through their members while others promote and support the initiative. This essay outlines the activities of such organizations formed by an interest group that tries to influence the healthcare policies (Kronenfeld, 1997).
Interest groups are groups of people who come together to share the same interests, goals and purpose. They form an organization to serve some specific interests of the public therefore acting as a voice of the people and at the same time, addressing important issues that the public raises concerns about. There are many of such organizations, many more being formed every day and a good example is the American Medical Association (AMA), which has concern in the healthcare department. The group has a formal admission of members, comprise of elected officials and the members are paid well to further their efforts in the volunteer work. They hold meetings regularly to address matters that emerge and make sure they provide updated information to the public through newspapers and magazines.
By forming association as an interest group in the healthcare field, some policies have been influenced and other programs initiated to fund the election campaigns for some selected candidates. This was during the 1970s and the numbers of such organized groups have since increased. The laws then had restrictions on the amount of money to be raised in political campaigns, but the interest groups came with ways to counter this law by establishing a difference between the money collected in terms of how the did it. There was the hard cash, which was under the laws of the campaign limits, and then the soft cash, which was raised through other means and not from individual contribution restrictions. The AMA has become influential in many aspects of life, including outdoor activities and contests like in Congressional races. Some interest groups were formed because of political influence and are mainly driven by politics, and they exert pressure on the government and the laws of legislation to influence the imposed policies. Such groups are sometimes referred to as pressure groups and more interest groups with political influence have come up in the past few years (Harrington & Estes, 2004).
The American Medical Association has had to be quick to address issues that emerge as the American healthcare system experiences escalation in the costs of medical care everyday, and this calls for external influence and imposition of policies that would regulate the costs of healthcare. These high costs for medical attention affect insurance companies and employers who would then try to control the expenses incurred in the medical sector, and in turn, their move affect the income of medical services providers like hospitals and pharmacists. The chain of dissatisfaction continues down to the last group, which most likely would be the poor in the society who cannot afford the high prices of medicine, let alone the cheapest drugs in the market. This leads to a major public outcry for the basic medical services, which eventually calls for reform to try finding the best ways to deal with the problem. Policies will have to be altered and other new ones put into practice to see what changes they might bring about (Mahler, MacInnis & Byleen, 2001).
When implementing a certain policy under health care, the interest groups undertake two main sections when formulating the policy; setting the agenda, and development of legislation. In the first section, the agenda develops from the issues that add up in the chain of the concerned groups named in the previous paragraph, their problems and suggestions as solutions. The agenda may be created from the sudden attention to the certain public concerns like the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Such interest groups raise awareness on the emergence of a new killer in the world, and promote funding to fight the disease through searching for donors and volunteers to educate people on the importance of life. This would probably change the attitude many people have about AIDS and come in to help the affected and the infected.
The group also looked in to the problems mothers faced with the new regulations by hospitals that required them to leave the maternity hospitals within a day after delivery. They aired the needs of women and advocated for their rights to be recognized by the public and their opinions to be considered. These issues first grab the attention of the public because there is always a general love for children and sympathy for expectant mothers. Politicians also are quick to pick up such problems and use them in the next elections, and in their bid to impress the public for favors in the elections, they help pass the legislation on the pregnant women with some of them then leaving the hospitals when they feel like or when they are strong enough (Patel & Rushefsky, 2006).
On the other hand, the very influential activities by the AMA increased public interest in health and this lessens the impacts of interest groups. Campaign reforms might also reduce the weight of the other interest groups, not excluding the groups in the health area. It has been established that the changes occurring within the healthcare system is gradually affecting the form of the healthcare policy, from and antireform association of medical service, insurance policies and business, to a weaker alliance in which reform coalition then might have a stronger influence. In the United States, the interest group argument is one of the explanations as to why reform has been very difficult to attain especially in the healthcare field from the American political perspective. Although they agree with the interest groups and the importance they bring with them, they refuse the motion because they do not have the same opinion that not all counties that passed the national health insurance legislation had some strong interest groups with negative forces to their initiatives.
The President, acting as the chief executive, leads the politicians of the government and of the opposition in elevating the issue to light, and treats it as a key political agenda and a very important problem for consideration. They set up debates and come up with solutions that please the public and no just satisfying those who offered financial assistance. The position of the president as the chief executive plays a good role in influencing the setting of the agenda. The interest groups that deal with healthcare issues have their minds all on health and the delivery of healthcare, and their life is generally related to medical care services, so they too play an important role in coming up with the agenda and drafting the legislation (University of Washington College of Forest Resources & Bradley, 1984).
The formulation of the legislation differs from agenda setting in that it followed a certain order and pattern, unlike the latter where it depended on time and the nature of the issue itself. It starts with suggestions or resolutions in the legislature, more specifically called bills in the modern governments. Many bills are introduced into Congress every year, but very few of them are passed while the rest are simply forgotten with nothing done about them. The AMA as an external influence plays a very important role in drafting the more important issues such as health. After the bills are introduced, they are assigned to individual committee in various chambers for further examination and then following the approval of the full committee; the proposal can now be passed and implemented. In the case of health, proposals are pushed in by representatives of the AMA for check up by the committee. They influence the decisions of the house by actively participated in the debates until the end to ensure that their bills are considered or are denied with a good course.
The interest groups following up healthcare issues keep themselves up to date with the bills they propose to the committee. They keep watch on the council working on the issues to ensure that they follow the correct procedure and no detail is left out. Their job is to come in when they feel something is not done correctly by the committee and push for corrections or complete review on the matters in question, especially the bills they have proposed. They have the right to come in and influence the results of the board, but not after the bills are handed over to the president for his final opinion. The president can decide to sign the bill and immediately making it a law, or may make it vetoed, meaning he does not sign it but returns it to the Congress for further assessment. This means that the president does not actively take part in the discussion by the different chambers, but has the final word on whether to pass the bill or not.
The length of time between the passage of laws should be relatively short to allow for the changes that might have to be done before the law became active. In cases of healthcare, clarification of the rules has been very slow, but after the Health Maintenance Organization Act was passed in 1973, the suitable administrative agencies were formed and which came together with other interest groups to counter the problems they expected with the rules. Interest groups have taken a very important role in the healthcare field and is view as one of the three important sections in policy formulation, the others being agency in the executive branch that manage the policy area, and the commission and sub-commissions within the Congress that helped in the formulation of the legislation.
The American Medical Association is allowed to access the Congress to ensure that legislation passed if fair to all, including the group members and the administrative agencies to influence the rules executed by the executive branch. For policy implementation the AMA ensures that, the desirable policy development is achieved. The groups are dependent upon by the Congress and the administrative agencies for information and for support in other programs. They have no positions in the government, but have been given an active role in the policy-making process. They have established their expertise in different areas because of working in separate ministries, for instance the group in question here, with specialized knowledge in different areas of health policy. The interest groups monitor the progress of the implementation of health-related legislation through committee hearings, small debates and modifications, and alert the members of the next voting practices and offer advice on the best ways to influence the results of the votes (Mahler, MacInnis & Byleen, 2001).
The power of interest groups is however shifting in their favor and their role in the formulation of policies can move from merely being observatory and suggestive to active initiation of new policies. They might also be allowed to come with their own policies they see fit for implementation and present their views on the policies before the rest of the committee offer their suggestions on them. This is because of their specialized skills and expertise knowledge that suggest that they might have creative and inventive solutions to the problems facing the healthcare system. They can also play a big role in educating its members and the public on the importance of changing the health policies regularly and this will bring in the involvement of the public to present their ideas that might offer some insight in this situation. This however does not mean that they would cease being the voice of the people because it will be hard to get to the public if not through people that they are used to and who they are in constant contact with (Sloof, 1998).
The current Obama administration has a vision to give its citizens the option of buying medical insurance plans in the Medicare-style system, which is one of the biggest steps in health reforms in the American government. The Medicare association and its advocates confirm that it the people a cheaper option from the private insurance offer in which many people are in business with. This will be a lesson t the private insurance companies, to either run out of business or lower their charges to a more suitable and non-exploitive nature to cater for the needs of people of all economic classes. Although critics say that the initiative would be unfair to the private firms, even if they lower their rates, because all large businesses would switch from them and cause their demise. The private insurance companies seem to argue that an agreement should be maintained just as business is carried out, so that no one loses but they both share in the opportunities.
The four groups of people in the line of healthcare that influence the nature of healthcare and the role of government are; big insurance companies, physicians, hospitals and a number of participants in the field of healthcare system who engage in small profit-making activities. Congress was only able to form some policies that started paying physicians for their services in the established Medicare Program, and this had never happened until 1989. The small number of interest groups in the department of health, unlike in other areas is due to ignorance and their careless attitude toward health. Most people also look at health and interpret it very differently, as there are some who hardly get sick to require medical attention. This leaves a group of people having a carefree attitude because some of them have never had anything more serious than a headache after a day’s work. Of course, this was much worse before the invention of these interest groups because the groups have recruited many new members in the near past. Situations where one gets very sick and needs medical checkup or when their relatives or friends bring to their attention the importance of good health. Another situation would be that of an individual works in an organization that offers healthcare services and he or she might be interested to join such groups (Kronenfeld, 1997).
People do not take health seriously and this is a serious issue in the society today because there must have been much loss of live because of ignorance. People wait until they are bed-ridden or when their health status deteriorates to the worst before they seek medical attention. The same way, very few people recognize small organizations and interest groups that would benefit them if they identified with them, and join them in improving the health standards in the country. The interest groups would enjoy very much the recognition and support from the public because it would make their work simple and easier administering healthcare activities in different parts of the nation. A general education of the public on the importance of healthcare services and maintenance by the government should be established instead of letting small organizations that were only recently formed carry the burden. It should be clear to everyone how to appreciate and support the programs created by such organizations and they be rewarded if possible because this would see positive changes in the countries.
Mahler, G. S., MacInnis, D. J., Byleen, K. E. Comparative Politics: an Institutional and Cross-national Approach. Pearson Education, 2001.
Sloof, R. Game-theoretic models of the political influence of interest groups Issue 143 of Tinbergen Institute research series. Springer, 1998.
Bradley, G. A., University of Washington. College of Forest Resources. Land use and forest resources in a changing environment: the urban/forest interface. University of Washington Press, 1984.
Kronenfeld, J. J. The changing federal role in U.S. health care policy. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997.
Harrington, C., & Estes, C. L. Health policy: crisis and reform in the U.S. health care delivery system. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2004.
Patel, K., Rushefsky, E. Health care politics and policy in America. M.E. Sharpe, 2006.