Prior to the 2010 health care reforms, scholars often commented that health policy making in Congress was mired in political gridlock, that reforms were far more likely to fail than to succeed, and that the path forward was unclear. In light of recent events, new narratives are being advanced. In formulating these assessments, scholars of health politics tend to analyze individual major reform proposals to determine why they succeeded or failed and what lessons could be drawn for the future. Taking a different approach, we examine all health policies proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1973 and 2002. We analyze these bills' fates and the effectiveness of their sponsors in guiding these proposals through Congress. Setting these proposed policies against a baseline of policy advancements in other areas, we demonstrate that health policy making has indeed been far more gridlocked than policy making in most other areas. We then isolate some of the causes of this gridlock, as well as some of the conditions that have helped to bring about health policy change.

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