LBJ School offers a course explaining health insurance


Marshall Nolen

Sam Richardson, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs, along with other LBJ School professors teach the course “Enrolling in Health Insurance Through the Affordable Care Act: An Austin Case Study.” A requirement for first year master’s students, the course examines the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Texas and issues with the program’s enrollment website.

Cinnamon Cornell

The Policy Research Project, a required graduate course ranging in topics as diverse as children’s welfare and lobbying in the Texas legislature, has introduced a new core topic for the 2013-2014 school year — the Affordable Care Act.

The two-semester course, “Enrolling in Health Insurance Through the Affordable Care Act: An Austin Case Study,” is the latest Policy Research Project at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The course primarily aims to put together a study of how Texas is implementing the Affordable Care Act, according to public affairs professor David Warner.

“Policy Research Projects are a core course that are policy-related and involve student research,” Warner said. “This is the first on the ACA, but they range from transportation policy for the state to diabetes policy and maternal and child health on the US-Mexico border.”

Despite political controversies surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including a related government shutdown last month, LBJ assistant professor Sam Richardson said the goal of the project is not to make politicized recommendations.

“The purpose of the study is not to say what should happen, but to provide a scrupulously evenhanded explanation over time of what is happening,” Richardson said.

Warner said the study is part of a national effort to study the implementation of the Health Insurance Marketplace conducted by a network of field research analysts in 27 states.

Richardson said the project will have two interrelated parts. The first will focus on analysis of the state’s readiness to implement the Affordable Care Act and will examine the availability of the marketplace. The second focuses on the initial workings of the exchanges themselves.

Warner said students this spring will do a more in-depth analysis of how the online insurance market initially worked out in the state. In order to get a better picture of how the ACA is unfolding, all of the members of the class have become certified application counselors and are volunteering with Foundation Communities, an organization focused on getting low-income Texans enrolled in new insurance plans through the website.

“The students in the class will have a publication that will be part of a national analysis of the implementation [and will] have learned a great deal about the health insurance system and the state government,” Warner said.

Graduate student Jane Vance, who is currently enrolled in the course, said the format departs from the standard graduate class.

“[This] isn’t a standard lecture-based course,” Vance said.