An example of short-sighted policymaking due to the misguided tactic of keeping the public in the dark.

Health Care Déjà Vu

With health care, it's déjà vu all over again as we see another great example of short-sighted policymaking due to the misguided tactic of keeping the public in the dark.

Public Agenda veterans remember the early 90s, when the Democratic Clinton Administration developed its health policy behind closed doors without bothering to prepare, let alone, engage the public on what was to come. At the time, we predicted it would run into a wall consisting of the bricks of partisan Congressional resistance and the mortar of public confusion and cynicism. And it did. The don't-look-behind-the-curtain policy process currently employed by Senate Republicans promises a similar result.

Something may be shoved through via sloganeering, parliamentary maneuvering, executive action or leadership bargaining, but the public is likely to push back hard if the result doesn't produce policies that reflect people's priorities and address their concerns. Anger and cynicism are even more likely if they and their representatives never had a chance to weigh in as the process unfolds. A policy produced from such weak democratic process and anemic public understanding and support is likely to produce strong blowback.

At Public Agenda, we work to inform and engage the public about the issues that affect their lives, and to bridge the gaps between leaders and the public. We do this through our Citizens Solutions Guides, such as this one on health care, that help people understand different policy directions. We do it through research such as our report on health care price transparency. And we do this through our public and community engagement support services, for instance, with ReThink Health's Ventures project. We'll be working alongside this group to help set goals for the kinds of engagement they want to initiate, support and sustain in their health systems and communities.

Next month, we'll add to the national health care conversation with our anticipated research on public perceptions of quality and value. As newsletter subscribers, you'll receive the report and findings as soon as it is released.

Thank you for your support in our work to ensure the public's thinking, concerns, values and voice are at the forefront of decision-making.


Will's headshot


Will Friedman

New from Public Agenda

VP of Public Engagement Matt Leighninger was quoted in the Christian-Science Monitor on why 21st century citizens want to be heard and contribute to public decisionmaking.
A New York Times article from Jon Marcus, an editor at The Hechinger Report, on the strains facing higher education referenced our work this month. Findings from our research on Americans' use of price information in their health care decisions were also published in a letter to the editor of The New York Times


Still Searching: How People Use Health Care Price Information in the United States
Half of Americans have tried to find price information before getting care, but obstacles remain to helping them find the information that can help them save money. This research report is based on a nationally representative survey conducted in conjunction with representative surveys in four states: Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Texas.

The Fix We're In: What Americans Have to Say About Opportunity, Inequality and the System They Feel Is Failing Them
Read about focus groups we held with folks from small and large cities, including San Diego, Cincinnati, the greater metro area of New York and numerous points in between. 

From the Blog

Every week we curate stories and reports on complex issues. This week: Calls for unity and the restoration of civil discourse. A comparison of the U.S. middle class to Europe's. A research roundup on how teachers' stress affects students. What do college students think of guided pathways? And do doctors who are informed of prices make different choices?

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Join us in NYC for a Public Engagement Strategy Workshop

Let's get to work on revamping and strengthening your engagement strategy on July 31 and August 1 in New York City!

Who: Leaders looking to revamp or strengthen their engagement strategy
Date: Monday, July 31 and Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 
Location: Federation Of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA)
40 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004

Register by July 15 for early bird pricing


Public Agenda helps build a democracy that works for everyone. By elevating a diversity of voices, forging common ground, and improving dialogue and collaboration among leaders and communities, Public Agenda fuels progress on critical issues, including education, health care and community engagement. Founded in 1975, Public Agenda is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in New York City. Find Public Agenda online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at @PublicAgenda.

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