Research Blog #1

My first week of research has yielded significant progress.  My study of public opinion among uninsured groups on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) proceeds better and faster than expected.  Thus far, I have surveyed 70 patients in the waiting rooms of the Daily Planet Health’s outreach program at the Conrad Center and the Richmond High Blood Pressure Center.  Both clinics receive numerous uninsured patients willing to express their political sentiments in my survey.


This survey isolates the major provisions of the ACA, national values pertaining to the healthcare debate, and current politics surrounding the ACA.  On a scale of 1 to 5, the survey participants support or oppose, agree or disagree, and accept or reject generalized statements concerning the ACA.  Survey participants must be 18 years of age or older, uninsured, and lack Medicare or Medicaid coverage.  Distinguishing the survey population is rather difficult.  I narrowed my definition of coverage to meet some of the complications encountered in the field.  Healthcare coverage is a nebulous concept.  Multiple patients who frequent the healthcare clinics possess some limited coverage, but it is either inadequate or irrelevant to their current health issues.  An elderly man may be on Medicare D but find himself in the infamous “doughnut hole,” the range of drug costs that are not covered by the Medicare Trust Fund.  For drug purposes, he lacks coverage.  But if he needs lab work completed, he is covered.  To classify more cases like this one, I more closely defined “uninsured groups.”  The patients in my survey lack the necessary coverage for some aspect of their healthcare.  For example, a mother may receive Medicaid to pay for her children’s healthcare but lack coverage for her own diabetes.


My better-than-expected progress allows me to talk to many participants after they return a completed survey.  Their responses are high diversified.  Some apologize for being uninformed on the ACA (even though it is no fault to data).  Others apologize as they vent their political frustrations to me.   These patients blame the ACA for pushing them into a system dominated by insurance companies.  They would rather remain uncovered and frequent free health clinics than leap into the cesspool of the healthcare industry.  Some patients decry the possible repeal of the ACA.  Their frustration is sincere if unsurprising.  Political scientists have tracked a trend of falling trust in government for years.  The polarization among the survey participants, however, is surprising.  Although I have 30 more patients to survey, I can see distinct patterns already.  Questions referring to healthcare as an indispensable right generate the most heated answers.  Without full tabulation and analysis of data, I fear making presumptions about the research.  But I believe the philosophical aspects of the healthcare debate are more controversial than the specifics like the expansion of Medicaid.


Overall, the research is moving forward at a great pace.  One challenge is worth mentioning—if to my embarrassment.  Following the advice of one clinician, I began using Lifesavers and Tootsie Rolls as incentives/compensation to complete the survey.  What is effective in one clinic is not very effective in another.  I asked permission from the Richmond High Blood Pressure Center to use candy as an incentive.  At the time, I did not realize the clinic also specialized in diabetes.  It dawned on me that giving candy in a diabetes clinic was essentially the same as uncorking wine at a rehab center.  Needless to say, I was dissuaded from my course of action.  Thankfully, the staff at the Richmond High Blood Pressure was gracious despite my faux pas.


In my next post, I hope to write about some of the literature I have been reading to familiarize myself with the ACA, including Healthcare Reform and American Politics:  What Everyone Needs to Know by Theda Skocpol and Lawrence Jacobs as well as breakdowns of the ACA from the Kaiser Family Foundation.  I would blog about some of the politics of passage and the ensuing backlash, but I doubt my blog should exceed two pages.  I recently received permission from another clinic, Crossover Ministries, to conduct my survey.  I hope to complete the survey section of my research project and start interviewing healthcare officials next week.  With more fortune than the current healthcare industry has at the moment, my second week will be as productive as the first.