The imminent inauguration of America’s first African American president, Barack Obama. The sharpest economic contraction since the Great Depression. In nominal terms, the biggest federal budget deficits and highest debt in history.
To this short list of improbabilities, welcome and not, dare we add another — the prospect of health reform? As President Obama prepares to take office and engage with the 111th Congress, the United States seems closer to broadening health insurance coverage and making other sweeping changes than at any time since 1994. Hence, this package of Health Affairs Inauguration Perspectives. Call it our bipartisan way of honoring one of our greatest achievements as a republic: the peaceful transition of government, and the embrace of a new day.
Whether members of Congress or business leaders, the authors of these Perspectives are unanimous: the status quo in health care is unacceptable, and changes must be made. Yet the writers also differ in various respects. Some favor proceeding boldly, and others favor caution. Some endorse particular bills or policy initiatives; others point to broad-brush changes to build a foundation for ongoing transformation.
We receive critical reminders that health care isn’t everything, and that addressing conditions that affect the social determinants of health matters, too. Nor should U.S. health or health care be our sole preoccupation. The administration of George W. Bush made large and lasting contributions in the field of global health, and the Obama administration can and should build on these to deepen America’s commitment to improving health worldwide.
These authors will not have the last word on any of these topics, as the months to come will bring many more in the pages of Health Affairs. We hope you enjoy this symposium. Let the festivities begin.