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Polarized stakeholders and institutional vulnerabilities: the enduring politics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Daniel Béland, Philip Rocco, Alex Waddan
Clinical Therapeutics 2015 April 1, 37 (4): 720-6
25843645

PURPOSE: We conducted a comparative study of how state-level political stakeholders affected the implementation of 3 major reforms within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Our goal was to analyze the effects of policy legacy, institutional fragmentation, and public sentiments on state obstruction of the reform.

METHODS: We gathered quantitative and qualitative evidence to generate cross-case comparisons of state implementation of 3 reform streams within the ACA: health insurance exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and regulatory reform. Our sources included secondary literature, analysis of official decisions, and background interviews with experts and public officials.

FINDINGS: We found that state-level opponents of the ACA were most likely to be successful in challenging reforms with few preexisting policy legacies, high institutional fragmentation, and negative public sentiments. Reforms that built on existing state legislation, avoided state veto points or offered lucrative fiscal incentives, and elicited less negative public reaction were less likely to be contested.

IMPLICATIONS: Our findings point to the importance of institutional design for the role of political stakeholders in implementing reforms to improve the cost, quality, and availability of medical treatments. Although other research has found that political polarization has shaped early ACA outcomes, comparative analysis suggests political stakeholders have had the highest effect on reforms that were particularly vulnerable.

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