Together with Tufts University and the University of Pittsburgh, William & Mary’s Schroeder Center for Health Policy was recently awarded a grant to study the interrelationships between the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The grant, nearly $1 million in size, was awarded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the lead federal agency charged with U.S. healthcare system quality and safety, and will fund research activities from 2017 through 2021.
The grant will fund research related to low-income persons aged 65 and older who are eligible to receive healthcare through both Medicare and Medicaid. For this group, Medicare serves as the primary payer of their healthcare, while Medicaid is intended to cover cost-sharing and services that Medicare does not. Overall, both programs insure more than 100 million people and cost more than $1 trillion a year.
The research will be carried out by a team of health economists at Tufts, Pitt, and William & Mary including Melissa McInerney (Tufts), Lindsay Sabik (Pitt) and Jennifer Mellor (W&M). The team will conduct extensive analyses of multiple large household survey datasets, as well as data derived from claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid by healthcare providers, all spanning a 15-year period. “Our work will tackle some important questions about using public policies to improve health,” Mellor said. “We know that Medicaid has valuable benefits for participants, but Medicaid participation by low-income seniors is thought to be low, and the factors that lead to Medicaid participation among low-income seniors have not been studied extensively,” she added. The research will also study healthcare use by duals. As Tufts professor Melissa McInerney notes, “healthcare use by this group is important to study because seniors and adults with disabilities drive Medicaid spending growth.” Additionally, the research will produce valuable state-level data for the research and policy communities.
The project comes at an important time given the current policy climate. The Medicaid program has been undergoing substantial changes that may have had unintended, indirect effects on Medicaid participation, health, and healthcare use by low-income seniors. At the same time, the aging of the baby boomer cohort is placing greater strains on the program. According to Pitt professor, Lindsay Sabik, “by looking at the ways that Medicaid policies intentionally and sometimes unintentionally affect low income seniors, we will provide policymakers with information that will help ensure access to care and health for this vulnerable group.”