This Foundation Is Digging Into the Non-Health Effects of Obamacare

Most of the research into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has looked at its impact on public health delivery and the marketplaces for health insurance. The Russell Sage Foundation is interested learning about the act’s political, social, and economic impact with a grant cycle that’s now open.

The ACA of 2010 is the biggest reform of the U.S. health care system since President Lyndon Johnson shepherded the Medicare and Medicaid programs through Congress in 1965. The subsidized health insurance the ACA offers through the insurance exchanges and Medicare expansion is a significant transfer of resources to people with low or moderate income. It’s one of the few bright spots for the economically disadvantaged in an era of increasing income inequality, a topic that the Russell Sage Foundation has been intensively studying for over a decade.

Related - Inside the Russell Sage Foundation's Epic Dig Into Why Inequality Matters  

When a new president, Sheldon Danziger, took over the foundation a year and a half ago, he thought it would be interesting to dig into the ACA's effects through the lens of RSF's longstanding interests in equity. 

The foundation is looking to fund research on several issues related to the ACA, including the impact on low-income families and children, how the law is affecting labor markets, and how the law is affecting "politics, political culture, and public policy." 

These are all interesting issues, and many are anything but straight forward. For, example, the foundations wants to know: 

To the extent that the expansion of insurance coverage improves financial well-being and reduces stress for affected families, are children in those families positively affected? For example, does reduced parental stress contribute to improved cognitive development or a reduction in problem behaviors for children? Does it improve educational outcomes?

There have been fierce debates over the ACA's likely impact on labor markets, with Republicans calling it a "jobs killer." But how are things actually playing out? Does the law have the positive effect of reducing "job-lock" and increasing self-employment and entrepreneurship? Does it have the negative effect of leading employers to shift more workers to part-time status to avoid having to provide health insurance? Since dependents can now be covered until 26 on their parents’ policies, how has that change impacted the job market for young adults? 

Perhaps most tantalizing is how RSF wants to explore the politics around the ACA, one of the most polarizing issues of recent times. What affects people's views on the law, and how might those views change over timesay, by knowing someone benefitting from the law? And how will this historic reform influence American attitudes toward govenrment and entitlements over the long term? 

As implementation moves forward—or fails to do so—how will Americans’ experiences of those changes affect their support for the law, their views of government generally, and their attitudes about future reform efforts? Does the availability of health insurance through the exchanges increase support for other reforms such as increasing the Medicare eligibility age? 

These are all complicated questions, which is why it's good to have Russell Sage leading this inquiry. It's well known for supporting sophisticated research on economic and social issues, with all proposals going through a rigorous screening process that we've described before. The foundation encourages the gathering of new data for its grants, and also states that “novel uses of existing sources of data are encouraged.”

Here's some additional information about this initiatitive The foundation is accepting LOIs until Until July 1.