Inquiry to see if reforms address cost and access disparities faced by people with disabilities

Professor of Health Policy and Administration Jae Kennedy is heading up a new initiative to establish the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living, a multi-institutional effort to evaluate the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the well-being of working-age adults with disabilities. Funded through a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, the collaborative brings together disability advocates and researchers from WSU, the University of Kansas, George Mason University, and the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Jae KennedyUntil recently, many adults with disabilities did not have access to private health insurance coverage and had to rely on public programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. With the implementation of the ACA, that has changed.

“The ACA has endured many legal and legislative challenges, and many of its reforms are now a feature of the U.S. health care system,” said Kennedy. “We need to know the magnitude of these changes, and whether they are addressing the pervasive disparities in access and cost that people with disabilities face.”

In partnership with several national disability advocacy organizations, the collaborative’s researchers will conduct five research projects to study health insurance costs, coverage, and outcomes; determine information and training needs among staff in Centers of Independent Living; and identify changes in disability program application and enrollment rates. Kennedy said the collaborative’s findings may be used to advocate for policy changes to address any remaining health disparities in this vulnerable population.