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What Are People in Health Care? Consumer Subjectivity and Health Care Policy

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Abstract:

Health care consumerism is a prominent frame in US health care policy discourses, including in recent debates about federal health care reform. Whether or not the word “consumer” is used, many health care policymakers, providers, and advocates frame health care as a consumer good or service that is distributed within a market system. This occurs for a variety of reasons – in order to encourage people to make the connection between their care and the costs, and to adjust their health care usage accordingly; to empower users to demand higher quality and more customized care; and to preserve the marketplace as the mechanism of health care delivery, rather than a public service model. With the health care system in the early stages of federal reform, with other reforms (or rolling back of reforms) looking likely, this research seeks to unpack the often-invoked figure of the “health care consumer” by examining the language and narratives of health care users, using qualitative interview and focus group research. Drawing on interviews and small focus groups with 37 people, the genesis and logic of a “health care consumer” subjectivity is described. Among these informants, some reject this subjectivity, others embrace it, and yet others see it as relevant for particular aspects of the health care experience but not others. Their interpretations of health care consumerism indicate that it is a polysemic category, with significant variation in how people interpret what it means to be a consumer of health care. Depth of experience with the health care system as well as level of health care security shape perceptions of whether a consumer approach is relevant to health care. Past framing research suggests that issue frames implicitly argue for particular policy solutions. Hence, this study pays attention not only to whether users see themselves as consumers of health care, but how their comfort with a consumer framing of health care informs their views on health care policy, including how to control costs, and whether the state has a role in promoting greater access to health care.
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Name: International Communication Association
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http://www.icahdq.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p489845_index.html
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MLA Citation:

West, Emily. "What Are People in Health Care? Consumer Subjectivity and Health Care Policy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Boston, MA, <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p489845_index.html>

APA Citation:

West, E. E. "What Are People in Health Care? Consumer Subjectivity and Health Care Policy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Boston, MA <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p489845_index.html

Publication Type: Session Paper
Abstract: Health care consumerism is a prominent frame in US health care policy discourses, including in recent debates about federal health care reform. Whether or not the word “consumer” is used, many health care policymakers, providers, and advocates frame health care as a consumer good or service that is distributed within a market system. This occurs for a variety of reasons – in order to encourage people to make the connection between their care and the costs, and to adjust their health care usage accordingly; to empower users to demand higher quality and more customized care; and to preserve the marketplace as the mechanism of health care delivery, rather than a public service model. With the health care system in the early stages of federal reform, with other reforms (or rolling back of reforms) looking likely, this research seeks to unpack the often-invoked figure of the “health care consumer” by examining the language and narratives of health care users, using qualitative interview and focus group research. Drawing on interviews and small focus groups with 37 people, the genesis and logic of a “health care consumer” subjectivity is described. Among these informants, some reject this subjectivity, others embrace it, and yet others see it as relevant for particular aspects of the health care experience but not others. Their interpretations of health care consumerism indicate that it is a polysemic category, with significant variation in how people interpret what it means to be a consumer of health care. Depth of experience with the health care system as well as level of health care security shape perceptions of whether a consumer approach is relevant to health care. Past framing research suggests that issue frames implicitly argue for particular policy solutions. Hence, this study pays attention not only to whether users see themselves as consumers of health care, but how their comfort with a consumer framing of health care informs their views on health care policy, including how to control costs, and whether the state has a role in promoting greater access to health care.


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