Public policy is an attempt by a government to address a public issue by instituting laws, regulations, decisions, or actions pertinent to the problem at hand. Numerous issues can be addressed by public policy including crime, education, foreign policy, health, and social welfare. While public policies are most common in the United States, several other countries, such as those in the United Kingdom, implement them as well. The process to create a new public policy typically follows three steps: agenda-setting, option-formulation, and implementation; the time-line for a new policy to be put in place can range from weeks to several years, depending on the situation. Public policies can also be made by leaders of religious and cultural institutions for the benefit of the congregation and participants, and the term can also refer to a type of academic study that covers topics such as sociology, economics, and policy analysis.
When new public policies are created, there are generally three key things involved in the process: the problem, the player, and the policy. The problem is the issue that needs to be addressed, the player is the individual or group that is influential in forming a plan to address the problem in question, and the policy is the finalized course of action decided upon by the government. Typically the general public will make the government aware of an issue through writing letters and emails, or making phone calls, to local government leaders; the issue is then brought forward during government meetings and the process for creating new public policies begins.
The rational model for the public policy-making process can typically be divided into three steps: agenda-setting, option-formulation, and implementation. Within the agenda-setting stage, the agencies and government officials meet to discuss the problem at hand. In the second stage, option-formulation, alternative solutions are considered and final decisions are made regarding the best policy. Consequently, the decided policy is implemented during the final stage; in most cases, once public policies are in place, they are widely open to interpretation by non-governmental players, including those in the private sector. Implied within this model is the fact that the needs of the society are a priority for the players involved in the policy-making process; also, it is believed that the government will follow through on all decisions made by the final policy.
Unfortunately, those who frame the issue to be addressed by policy often exert an enormous amount of influence over the entire process through their personalities, personal interests, political affiliations, and so on. The bias is extenuated by the players involved. The final outcome of the process, as well as its implementation, is therefore not as effective as that which could result from a purely rational process. Overall, however, public policy continues to be a vital tool in addressing social concerns.
In 1993, due to ineffective healthcare policies, the Clinton administration in the US sought to implement a policy that would bring about a national healthcare system. As part of the policies being considered, the US federal government would protect the healthcare consumer’s rights, consumers would be able to form alliances to obtain better healthcare prices, and caregivers would be required to provide fair healthcare packages. Players involved in the policy-making process included lobbying groups and politicians. While some changes were made to healthcare provisions by legislators, the policies advocated by the Clinton administration were not put into effect as result of political differences.
In 2010, US president Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law; this health care reform and public policy is meant to offer all American citizens health insurance that is easier to afford. The policy implemented several changes in health care that no longer allow health insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, nor can they drop coverage when insurance carries become ill. Several years elapsed before the policy was finally passed, and the final stages of the policy are planned to be put in place in 2014.
As an Academic Study
The study of public policy began in 1922, when Charles Merriam, a political scientist, sought to build a link between political theory and its application to reality. Most studies of public policy focus on areas that apply to problems within government management, administration, and operations; some of these topics include economics, program evaluation, sociology, political economy, and public management. Most college degrees on this topic are offered only as master's or doctorate degrees, and the course of study may vary between universities. /p>