For Immediate Release - July 09, 2013

Reaching the Uninsured and Underinsured: CHIA Funds Three Research Studies Examining the Impact of Health Care Reform in Massachusetts

BOSTON – Tuesday, July 09, 2013 – The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) today announced funding awards to research uninsurance and under-insurance within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Today’s awards fund investigations that will identify the remaining Massachusetts uninsured, the barriers and choices they face in accessing coverage, and whether those Massachusetts residents that are insured are receiving affordable, quality care.

Through the 2012 health care cost containment bill (Chapter 224), the Commonwealth tasked CHIA with establishing a program of study of the state’s uninsured and underinsured populations.  These awards, totaling more than $500,000, exemplify the agency’s growing partnership with leading research and academic institutions and mark another step forward in the agency’s implementation of Massachusetts’ health care reforms.

“CHIA’s purpose and mandate is to monitor the Massachusetts health care system and to provide reliable information and meaningful analysis for those seeking to improve health care quality, affordability, access, and outcomes,” Áron Boros, Executive Director of CHIA, stated.  “The results of these studies will further that mission, increasing transparency in our health care system and empowering our policymakers to make the best data-driven decisions possible.”

The three funded projects are:

JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc.: In partnership with Health Care for All and Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research, Dr. Jim Maxwell of JSI will lead a study seeking to better understand why the remaining uninsured in Massachusetts are disproportionately Hispanic.  “According to a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation study, in 2010 over 22 percent of the remaining uninsured nonelderly adults in Massachusetts were Hispanic.  Yet this ethnic group barely makes up 9 percent of our population,” Dr. Maxwell commented.  “CHIA’s support will enable us to conduct research that will inform policy and provide actionable recommendations for private and public groups to improve coverage and access for Latinos across the state.”  JSI is collaborating with community-based organizations and community health centers across Massachusetts to survey 1600 uninsured and newly insured Hispanics to identify unique barriers this population faces in obtaining and maintaining health care coverage.  The team will also conduct interviews and focus groups with health centers and community-based organizations to identify best practices in outreach and enrollment for Hispanic groups.

Harvard Medical School—Cambridge Health Alliance: Led by Dr. Danny McCormick, a team will explore how health care cost-sharing impacts consumers’ health insurance decisions.  “Between the Affordable Care Act and Chapter 224, Massachusetts residents will face new plan options, changes to their premiums, and changes in cost sharing,” Dr. McCormick stated.  “This partnership with CHIA will allow us to gauge consumer responses to these reforms.  Our results will inform policymakers and decision-makers about how these changes impact our citizens.”  The team will survey over a thousand adults at emergency rooms across Massachusetts to better understand how well consumers understand their own health care plans, how they weigh benefits and costs in making their coverage decisions, and whether there are particular financial “tipping points” for obtaining coverage or accessing care that can lead to deferrals of health care purchases. 

University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR): A research team led by Dr. Wen-Chieh Lin will explore how the increased adoption of high deductible health plans (HDHPs) is impacting access and quality for Massachusetts residents.  “Across the country, high deductible health plans are being subscribed to at an increasing rate,” Dr. Lin noted.  “While Massachusetts’ current HDHP enrollment rate is relatively low, significant growth is expected.  We want to proactively examine what impact that growth will have on our state, and this new partnership with CHIA will allow us to do so.”  The team will research the trend from two vantage points:  from the health insurance plan perspective, interviewing payer leadership to better understand their decisions about whether or not to offer HDHP options to their subscribers; and from the consumer perspective, using CHIA’s All Payers Claims Database to compare characteristics and outcomes between Massachusetts citizens enrolled in HDHP plans to those choosing not to enroll in such plans.

About The Center for Health Information and Analysis: The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) was established as an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by the 2012 Massachusetts health care reform law.  The mission of CHIA is to monitor the health care system in Massachusetts and to provide reliable information and meaningful analysis for those seeking to improve health care quality, affordability, access and outcomes in the Commonwealth.  CHIA also acts as the principal repository for health care data collected by the state and is responsible for maintaining such data in a secure payer and provider claims database, known as the All Payer Claims Database.  Prior to the 2012 law, many of the functions and responsibilities of CHIA were performed by its predecessor agency under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy.  To learn more, please visit www.mass.gov/chia or follow us on Twitter @Mass_CHIA.

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