Health Policy and Law Formation:
The process of legislation is characterized with some similarities and differences depending on the specific lawmaking body and the manner through which policymakers are elected and their respective functions and work. Generally, this legislative process includes drafting the bill, introduction of the bill to the respective house, discussions regarding it, any amendments, voting, and enactment into law or vetoed. In addition to undergoing this process, the formation of a public policy or law experiences various challenges depending on the specific state and municipality where the policy is formed.
In relation to public health policy, such laws originate from various sources before proceeding to policy development, which follows several stages. Some of these major stages in policy development include problem identification, setting of agenda, formation of the policy, implementation of the policy, policy evaluation, and policy termination or change. On an issue of health promotion or public health policy, the Congress acts or works in similar ways as it does on any other issue (Evans & Degutis, 2003, p.181). This is particularly with regards to the functions of its staff, members, the environment, and the process itself.
An example of a health policy that went through the various stages in the legislative process is the Pension and Health Benefits Reform 2011 bill. The bill was formulated and introduced to the Senate by a group of Republican politicians led by Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. The legislation was introduced in order to raise pension contributions of public employees and enable the state to make annual payments into the system. Moreover, this bill was geared towards increasing the contributions of public employees toward health insurance premiums and stopping collective bargaining for health benefits.
Before its enactment into law, the bill went through the various stages in the legislative process including being read twice in the Senate Chamber, being assigned a number, entry into ledgers and printing, and delivery to the appropriate committee. This was followed by placing the bill on the Legislative Calendar and presentation before the Senate. The Pension and Health Benefits Reform 2011 attracted huge debate between Republicans (who supported it) and Democrats (who opposed it). The Republican supported the bill on the premise that public employee benefits have been more generous beyond what the New Jersey State can afford and need to be reduced. Moreover, they argued that the bill would achieve two major objectives i.e. assisting the State’s taxpayers and ensuring that health and retirement benefits are available for public employees in the coming years.
On the contrary, Democrat lawmakers attempted to stall the enactment of the legislation through technicalities and amendments. While most of their efforts were unfruitful, they successfully convinced other major lawmakers to eliminate a controversial provision limiting public employees’ access to out-of-state clinical care (Megerian & Renshaw, 2011). Regardless of the opposition, the bill was enacted into law after being voted on in the Senate, a decision that split the Democratic Party of New Jersey.
The huge opposition from the Democrat policymakers and some union members who chanted outside the Statehouse were the main challenges in the enactment of the legislation. The varying political views are the main challenges that affect the legislative process in New Jersey. The different opinions usually emerge from the Senators or house representatives who are mandated with the tasks of policy making. Actually, the legislative or policy formation processes are usually characterized with partisan approaches based on the respective political party and persuasions. The potential impact of the Pension and Health Benefits Reform 2011 is that it will help in saving New Jersey approximately $120 billion over three decades. In essence, the legislation will provide a sustainable future for the state’s pension and health benefit system and securing a financially responsible future for the state. Therefore, this legislation is likely to contribute to bipartisan approaches in enacting laws that will enable the national government to save the country millions of dollars. The national government is likely to enact laws that transform the pension and health benefit system.
Evans, C.H. & Degutis, L.C. (2003, December). What it Takes for Congress to Act. American
Journal of Health Promotion, 18(2), 177-181.
Megerian, C. & Renshaw, J. (2011, June 24). N.J. Assembly Passes Landmark Employee Benefits
Overhaul. Retrieved June 19, 2014, from http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/06/assembly_passes_landmark_emplo.html
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