The first step in advocating for health care policy change is to be aware of what is happening in health care reform. As Congress debates the merits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and considers alternatives, nurses can advocate changes that bring positive outcomes to patient care. As these debates unfold, bear in mind how the proposed changes, and the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, will affect the patients you see every day.
The ACA was not perfect, and it was expected that modifications would be needed as time went on. However, it was a first step toward health care reform and generated many positive changes. Some of these were: expanded coverage for mental health and substance abuse, allowing children to remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26, mandated coverage of pre-existing conditions, and increased funding for preventative care. These are just a few benefits; there are many more. All of this is now at risk as Congress struggles with the enormous task of building a new health care system. How will your patients suffer if these benefits disappear? How will society suffer?
There are more than three million nurses in the U.S. Your one voice can make a difference, and many voices together can make an even bigger difference. The American Nurses Association has put together a toolkit for nurses to advocate for policy changes. There are instructions for more humble tasks such as emailing congressional representatives and for more ambitious activities such as writing a letter to an editor or visiting a congressional town hall. It doesn’t matter which task you embrace—they are all valuable and can make a difference in the outcome of health care policy decisions. Collectively, our voices can be strong, but doing nothing gets exactly that: nothing. Consider taking a moment out of your busy lives to advocate for health care policy changes that will positively impact patient care outcomes. You can make a difference.