LBJ students advance to Public Policy semis

Jahnavi Muppaneni

Students of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs advanced to the semifinals of the National Public Policy Challenge with their proposal to help Austin’s elderly population attain
affordable healthcare.

UT was one of 20 schools selected to participate in the urban policy competition at the University of Pennsylvania. The team presented a proposed solution for Austin’s rapidly growing population, which they developed by analyzing the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly.

“(The plan includes) everything from dentist appointments to nursing homes,” said Haley Chambers, public affairs graduate student. Chambers and two other public affairs graduate students, Christine Leal and Samuel Storey, competed for the University. 

“I think because the U.S. has popular social programs in place for seniors, such as Social Security and Medicare, most think older adults don’t really experience poverty, healthcare problems or housing issues,” Storey said. “In Travis County, the portion of seniors who are poor, who are being rejected by providers because they have Medicare or who are housing-cost burdened is increasing every year.”

Chambers said states that are cutting healthcare programs such as Medicare need to consider the future.

“In the next 30 years, the senior population will practically double and it’s important for states to realize … it costs more to take care of someone who is aging,” Chambers said.

The team’s nine-month policy research project was led by Jacqueline Angel, their public affairs professor. Angel said her students were dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens beyond
the competition.

“They tried to identify and explore what options were available for low-income seniors to age (where they reside) and enjoy their quality of life,” Angel said.

Storey said competing was intimidating at first, but that didn’t stop the team from succeeding.

“We definitely felt like the new kids on the block, especially since so many of the teams that competed do so every year,” Storey said. “While we were less familiar with how the competition would progress, we brought a personal passion and freshness to the process that I thought helped us stand out.”

Angel said she hopes more LBJ students compete in upcoming years. She said this year’s team will propose their ideas to the city of Austin in hopes of effecting real change.

“We need to ensure that the next generation of policymakers have the opportunity to engage in real life activities to accomplish goals,” Angel said.