Since I am at home visiting family for the week, I took the opportunity to vote early here in my local precinct rather than mailing in my ballot as I have in previous years. With the presidential election only days away, lines at the booth were encouragingly long, even in this small rural town.
Although the US economy has largely been the centerpiece of debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, health care reform is a close second, with the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hanging in the balance. As the individual largely responsible for its creation -- not to mention the namesake for "Obamacare", by which the ACA is more commonly (and often derisively) known -- Obama supports extension of the act as part of his second presidential term, while Romney has pledged to repeal it as early as his first day in office. And the fate of the ACA is only the tip of the iceberg -- the candidates also differ on their views regarding the future of Medicare and Medicaid, the roles and responsibilities of state and federal governments, preventative health, women's health, and more. As Blendon, et al write in their editorial on the role of health care reform in this election, "rarely [have] two major candidates' views about health care been so diametrically opposed"  -- despite the fact that much of the ACA is based on the state health care program that Romney helped create as governor of Massachusetts.
As is the case with any political issue subject to significant controversy, the conversations surrounding health care reform have largely been monopolized -- and arguably paralyzed -- by the opinions of politicians and pundits of the popular news media, leaving little opportunity for health care professionals to educate themselves on the stark differences between the candidates' platforms. Although more is at stake for health care professionals in this election than perhaps ever before, few resources are available to help compare and contrast the two candidates' views -- at least in a way that is comprehensive and non-partisan. Of note, I did find this resource developed by WebMD, which compares several of the most important issues surrounding health care reform (e.g., addressing the rising costs of care, Medicare and Medicaid, women's health, etc.) head-to-head.
My point is this: without regard to political affiliation, every individual participating in this election -- especially health care professionals -- should assume responsibility for educating themselves on the issue of health care reform, not simply based on the opinions that dominate the airwaves, but based on the details of the two platforms themselves. And even if you vehemently disagree with the views of the opposition, educating yourself on the issue only elevates the level of discussion, which -- no matter the result of the election -- is a win-win for everyone.
Note: For the purposes of this entry, information was presented in a non-partisan fashion; if you continued reading to see if I would describe my views on the issue (or endorse a particular candidate's position), I would be happy to discuss further by email. Additionally, if anyone is aware of other helpful resources, please send them my way, or leave them as comments below.