Researchers decode health care law

As the Affordable Care Act enters a critical phase and government workers pore over its regulations, they are leaning on GW public health researchers to help put the controversial law in place.

Health Reform GPS, a website run by researchers in the School of Public Health and Health Services, is a “one-stop shop for Affordable Care Act implementation,” said Joel Teitelbaum, an associate professor of health policy.

The website analyzes, summarizes and highlights key pieces of the “hundreds and hundreds of pages” of regulations.

He said as the clock ticks on states’ decisions to set up the insurance exchanges, the latest step of the implementation of the health care overhaul, they are increasingly turning to the University for help.

States have until Nov. 16 to declare whether they will set up their own insurance exchange – an online marketplace where people can compare plan prices – or leave it up to the federal government.

“When those regulations come down, we’re responding to it on GPS by writing about what the regulations mean. Those are really the laws that define specifically how the broad statutory provisions are going to work,” Teitelbaum said.

He said the website has tallied more than 300,000 separate hits since it started in 2010, and is gaining steam from federal and state legislative staff, administrative agencies and nonprofits, as all eyes turn to the exchange system.

Thirteen states, plus D.C., have announced their own exchanges so far. The exchanges also provide more affordable coverage for people with incomes between 133 and 400 percent above the poverty line.

Erick Carrera, a health benefits exchange policy analyst for Vermont, said his office is using Health Reform GPS to help guide its state-run exchange.

“I trust the researchers and think of the site as a credible source. Since I’m busy and don’t always have time to read every available policy, I frequently look to the Health Reform GPS for relevant and timely summaries,” said Carrera, a former public health student at GW.

The project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is part of the nearly $40 million in grants that the health policy department earns each year, making it the most research-heavy department at the University, researchers say.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.