Health and Behavior

Minding the health insurance gap

Student teams take a crack at solving complex issue


by Eric Gorton

 
image: /_images/madisonscholar/2017-health-policy-summit-1.jpg

SUMMARY: Laura Trull, an assistant professor of social work and an organizer of the summit, said the exercise has numerous benefits for the students, who "are challenged to work on one of the most pressing problems in Virginia and to utilize the different skills and knowledge they bring to the table to craft a potential solution."


What's the best way to provide health insurance to 400,000 Virginians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to purchase their own insurance?

That was the challenge facing about 200 JMU students from multiple majors in the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Business on Monday during the fourth annual Health Policy Summit. While state lawmakers have been grappling with the dilemma for years, the students were tasked with developing solutions in 45 minutes. And since Virginia has repeatedly voted against expanding Medicaid to cover the gap, the students were barred from using Medicaid expansion as an option.

In the end, three of more than 30 teams were selected for having the best solutions, which they then pitched to a panel consisting of two current state lawmakers — Del. Tony Wilt, a Republican representing the 26th House District, and Sen. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat representing the 25th Senate District — and Brent Finnegan, a Democrat who is challenging Wilt in this year's election.

Panelists behind a table on a stage listen as students stand and discuss their proposal in front of the stage.

All three panelists had nice words for the teams, whose solutions included: A bus, funded by a combination of state taxes and donations, and manned by volunteers, that would travel the state and offer health services to those in the gap; a state-run insurance program where customers could choose from a list of services they needed and could afford; new regulations on how much hospitals and insurance companies could charge and redistributing the savings created by the new regulations to help cover those in the gap.

Wilt told the students they should have had a semester to work on the problem and "hats off to you" for what was accomplished in the short timeframe. He also applauded the students for some out-of-the-box thinking and noted he always gets ideas from attending the sessions. Wilt suggested the students also consider competition and a free market, which "often creates the best services for the best price."

Deeds and Finnegan, both proponents of expanding Medicaid, also lauded the students for their creativity and said the work they did was important.

Laura Trull, an assistant professor of social work and an organizer of the summit, said the exercise has numerous benefits for the students, who "are challenged to work on one of the most pressing problems in Virginia and to utilize the different skills and knowledge they bring to the table to craft a potential solution."

She also said the students learn to appreciate the strengths and breadth of each others' disciplines and that "it is impressive how they find a way to work with people, usually total strangers, and face the problem head-on."


Madison scholar logo on gold background with white text: More stories like this can be found on the Madison Scholar blog.

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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