Complicated health care policy decisions are generally made by elected officials. The officials making these complicated decisions are elected by the people, and citizens’ participation in the voting process is one of the basic tenets of democracy. Voters in the United States, who are also patients in the health care system, receive enormous amounts of information throughout election cycles. This information is generally delivered in sound bites often intended to elicit an emotional reaction rather than simply inform. From April through July 2016, the author—an academic physician—rode a bicycle across the United States and met with people in small rural towns to ask them their understanding of the Affordable Care Act and the impact it has had on their lives. In this Commentary the author shares some of those stories, which are often informed by sound bites and misinformation. The author argues that it is the role of academic physicians to educate not only students and residents but also patients. In addition to providing information about patients’ medical problems, physicians can educate them about the health care policy issues that are decided by elected officials.
A doctor can help educate patients about these issues to facilitate their making informed decisions in elections. Physicians have a role and responsibility in society as a knowledgeable person to make the health care system be the best it can be for the most people.