Executive Health Administration

Iron Triangle: Policy Formation and Implementation

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 12, 2016 7:30:00 AM / by Anna Montgomery, MPA

White_House.pngAlumni and students got first hand experience of what it’s like to be at the forefront of healthcare policy by travelling to Washington, DC. While meeting with congressional leaders and capitol hill staff, White House administrators, bureaucrats, and stakeholders that are all involved in the complex policy environment, EMHA students and graduates received valuable insight into the roles each group plays within the iron triangle. The iron triangle describes the interactions between a congress that sets policy, special interest groups that advocate for specific policies, and the bureaucrats that implement policy. The importance of timing and knowing the political climate for change were key takeaways from this unique experience.

An understanding of the dynamic interaction of stakeholders, fiscal issues, and the role federalism plays in policy provided much needed perspective on the healthcare reform process. By seeing beyond implementation to the reasons behind changes, regulation, and processes, Price school participants gained policy knowledge that will add value for their employers. The healthcare leaders of today have to understand the policy environment to help organizations anticipate change, be nimble in the face of challenges, and to innovate.

How policy is made, enforced, and impacts organizations is a vital skill set for any healthcare leader. Restrictions on resources and of political will to change made policy decisions clearer to EMHA participants. Entitlement program changes based in rising costs demonstrate the need to transition healthcare to a value based system. Students and alumni ruminated on a central question: How do we provide value? The video below demonstrates the value of investigating this question through a deep engagement with the policy process. Healthcare leaders that can bring this knowledge back to their organization’s provide a distinct advantage in an increasingly competitive industry.


The 2016 Health Policy Forum was organized around the interactions and inner-workings of the "Iron Triangle" -- Congress, the White House Administration, and key healthcare stakeholders (such as the American Cancer Society). Students and alumni gained insight into the strategic timing of policies, the nature of collaboration among staff and stakeholders vis-a-vis our elected officials, and the changing nature of decision-making impacting all healthcare organizations and citizens alike. USC Executive MHA students and alumni met with top policy makers from the White House, both sides of Congress, the Congressional Budget Office, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and more. Here they came to understand the way policies are made and the types of contexts policy makers operate within. With this knowledge, EMHA leaders are better equiped to guide their own organizations through multiple layers of transformation.


Understanding that the policy process is dynamic, the rate of change is accelerating, and each policy has it's own evolution over time, students and alumni are more capable of predicting the types of issues that Congress and the White House will address in the future as they move their agendas forward.

Topics: Affordable Care Act

Anna Montgomery, MPA

Written by Anna Montgomery, MPA

Anna Montgomery earned her MPA at USC Price and is pursuing her EdD at USC Rossier.

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