The weakness of strong policies and the strength of weak policies: Law, experimentalist governance, and supporting coalitions in European Union health care policy

Authors

  • Scott L. Greer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
      Scott L. Greer, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2099, USA. Email: slgreer@umich.edu
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Scott L. Greer, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2099, USA. Email: slgreer@umich.edu

Abstract

The experience of European Union (EU) health care services policy shows the importance of supporting coalitions in any effort to effect policy change and the extent to which the presence or absence of such coalitions can qualify generalizations about policymaking. EU health care services law is substantively liberalizing and procedurally driven by the courts, with little legislative input. But the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been much better at establishing an EU competency in law than in causing policy development in the EU or member states. Literature on courts helps to explain why: courts are most effective when they enjoy supporting coalitions and the ECJ does not have a significant supporting coalition for its liberalizing health care services policy. Based on interview data, this article argues that the hard law of health care services deregulation and the newer forms of health care governance, such as the Open Method of Coordination and the networks on rare diseases, depend on supporting coalitions in member states that are willing to litigate, lobby, budget, decide cases, and otherwise implement EU law and policy. Given the resistance that the Court has met in health care sectors, its overarching deregulatory approach might produce smaller effects than expected, and forms of experimentalist governance that are easy to deride might turn out to have supporting coalitions that make them unexpectedly effective.

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