In the language of social science, health policy is both an independent variable and a dependent variable, both a cause and an outcome. The decisions of health policy makers are the product of political, economic, cultural, social, and historical forces. And once made, these decisions shape a range of outcomes, including the quantity and quality of care that patients receive, the level of public and private investment in hospitals, and the political participation and beliefs of citizens. The articles in this issue nicely capture the reciprocal relationship between health politics and policy. Taken together, they demonstrate that the substance of health policy cannot be understood without reference to the political context in which policies are crafted or to the ways that political institutions and ideas mediate program design, the organizational and financial incentives of stakeholders, and even how patients perceive their own...

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