Health Concentration Fact Sheet

Health policy encompasses issues related to hospitals, medical professionals, insurance and payment models, technology, public health, and issues of social justice. In such a dense field, there is a lot of research and private, non-profit, and government involvement to study.

While this post doesn’t go into detail on alternative or historical health reform proposals, Medicare, private insurance, and health disparities, among other topics, the ACA is the most important recent policy that has impacted all of these issues, therefore it is the most important primer to this month’s health policy focus.

Health Reform and the Affordable Care Act

In 2010, President Obama signed health reform legislation called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, or “Obamacare”. The goals of the ACA were to expand healthcare coverage, control health care costs, and improve health care delivery.

In 2015, 28.5 million non-elderly adults lacked health insurance, a decrease of nearly 13 million people since 2013 when many ACA policies started to be implemented (Kaiser Family Foundation).

The ACA was able to expand access to health insurance in several ways. The ACA made it so that people with pre-existing conditions could not be denied coverage, the ACA mandated that employers of certain sizes and other requirements had to offer insurance to their employees or face penalties, and the ACA expanded Medicaid.

Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health insurance for certain people with limited income and resources. Medicaid is the largest source of health coverage in the US ( The ACA expanded access to Medicaid by giving the states the option to extend eligibility to the program for adults with incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty line. Thirty-two states including DC have expanded Medicaid while 19 states have not.Picture2.png
Because some states have expanded Medicaid while others have not, this has created a coverage gap.

Moving Forward
While most of the ACA has started or completed implementation, many programs and policies continue to develop. Those interested in any health policies should stay up to date on the development of the ACA as it impacts the industry and the country’s economic, social equity, and physical health.

Devan Quinn
MPP with Health Policy Concentration
MA in Women Gender and Sexuality Studies


Introduction to the Health Concentration

October is Health month for the MPPSA blog! Throughout the month we will highlight the Health concentration, sharing exciting news from current students, professors, and alumni.

Many flock to the Heller School’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program for the Health concentration and the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy. The Health Policy concentration’s mission is to mold “students to become international leaders in the changing global landscape and infrastructure of health care.” As this industry continues to grow, there is a universal demand for health policy analysts to tackle the various problems that arise and make continuous improvements to the system; the Heller school aptly prepares its students to fill that role by teaching us how to engage with, analyze, and evaluate the numerous health programs and policies in the U.S. from past and present.

Health concentrators’ interests vary widely across the field, but some are:
Advancing processes and transitions of care.
Reducing disparities.
Bringing about quality and value services.
Reforming the healthcare payment system.
Lessening misdiagnoses and medical errors.

Typically, first year MPP students concentrating in Health take concentration chair Professor Stuart Altman’s Issues in National Health Policy class. Professor Altman provides a great stepping stone for those entering the concentration, giving a good framework on the field from which you are able to build your career on at Heller. Many concentrators specifically choose to pursue their graduate work at Heller so they may study under Professor Altman.

Classes frequently offered in the Health concentration:
Issues in National Health Policy – Professor Stuart Altman
Management of Health Care Organizations – Professor Jon Chilingerian
Quality and Performance Measurement in Health Care – Professor Deborah Garnick
State Health Policy – Mr. Brian Rosman

The Schneider Institutes for Health Policy is one of the first academically based healthcare research centers to be established in the U.S. The three institutes that comprise Schneider are: The Institute for Behavioral Health (IBH), The Institute on Healthcare Systems (IHS), and The Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD). Looking specifically at their relationships with one another, IBH studies the intersection of health, behavior, and systems of care, believing that these roles are able to increasingly advocate for healthier lifestyles and lead to improved health outcomes. Many renowned health policy analysts work with IHS, creating great change within healthcare research and policy; they are committed to producing meticulous, technical results for both policymakers and stakeholders alike in order to better promote quality, value, as well as efficiency in healthcare. The most recent establishment, IGHD has been built from a partnership with programs from the Sustainable International Development department at Heller. IGHD targets “actionable learning” and those interested in international health and development.

Thank you to all who are reading this and we hope you enjoy October’s Health month! Stay tuned!

Meagan Smith
MPP Candidate, Class of 2017
Concentrations: Health and Aging

Darcy Kennedy: New Economy Coalition and New Politics


(Darcy Kennedy, far right).

Hello! My name is Darcy Kennedy, and I’m a third year dual degree candidate for the MBA in Nonprofit Management and Masters in Public Policy degrees here at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management (concentrating in Children, Youth, and Families). I currently serve as an MBA representative to the Heller Student Association, as well as participate in multiple working groups and more activities than is advisable.

This past summer, I interned with two organizations located in Boston: the development office at the New Economy Coalition, and New Politics. New Economy Coalition is an organization that facilitates networking between like-minded organizations aimed at “uprooting legacies of harm” through a re-imagining of our current oppressive economic systems. New Politics is an organization dedicated to creating a pipeline of national service and military alum to political office, with the understanding that those who have previously dedicated themselves to public service are those who should be in political office.

Both of these internships were chosen so I could do work radically outside of my previous experiences. I discovered New Economy Coalition through the conference they were hosting in my hometown this summer: CommonBound 2016, held at Buffalo State College (my undergrad alma mater!) in Buffalo, NY. I was interested and excited to explore what fundraising and development looks like at an organization that eschews traditional economic systems. New Politics was committed to a demographic of people near and dear to my heart (national service veterans), and I was interested in exploring the behind-the-scenes of political campaigns.

I learned a lot this summer, about my own personal work styles and preferences and the non-profit sector generally. Both of these organizations are small and intimate, even though there’s a lot of remote work. I was able to further develop skills in fundraising and development, helped execute a conference of nearly 1,000 attendees with a team of 15 people, and learned more about political campaign work. My tasks over the summer allowed me to practice skills I learned in social policy analysis, applied regression analysis, and fundraising and development. I was also able to further practice soft skills I’ve learned through running events and working groups across Heller.

These internships have definitely impacted my plans for the rest of my time at Heller and beyond. I’m going to be continuing my work with New Politics through this semester, looking at their plan for scaling. My work with the New Economy Coalition opened up my further understanding of nonprofits in Buffalo doing work to influence structural change. Additionally, it showed me what I want in a work environment: a cadre of kind, reflective people who are personally committed to the work that their organization is involved in.

Meagan Smith: Executive Office of Elder Affairs

1) Please introduce yourself (name, year, concentration, activities or positions you might hold here at Heller):

Hi all! My name is Meagan Smith and I am a second year MPP student concentrating in health and aging policy. While at Heller, I have enjoyed working with Neighbors Who Care, a non-profit organization in Waltham focusing on alleviating isolation and loneliness for elders, and helping to build a long-lasting partnership between them and the MPP Student Association. I have also recently joined the Brandeis Graduate Christian Fellowship.

2) Where did you intern for the summer, what city were you located in, and what were you doing?

I was a Stephen B. Kay Fellow in Healthy Aging at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs in Boston, MA this summer. I had three main projects while at EOEA. I spent the majority of my summer working on my project for the Massachusetts Family Caregiver Support Program (MFCSP). I also worked on a housing research project as well as a comparative project for SCO, PACE, and One Care contracts. I loved working at EOEA; it was a truly wonderful experience.

3) Why did you choose this particular internship?

There were so many reasons why I wanted to work at EOEA. I have always wanted to work within the government, particularly federal or state government so I was ecstatic about this opportunity. I also have a real passion for aging policy, particularly with the intersection of health policy, and wanted my summer internship to center on that so I could learn more about the field.

4) What skills did you use (can be something you learned at Heller or something you did at a previous job)?

I found Dr. Fourneir’s Applied Regression Analysis and Applied Econometrics courses to be most helpful in preparing me for my internship. In those courses, I learned how to work with large data sets and started to build a good foundation for future work. I definitely felt a lot more confident walking into my internship because of that and was able to continue my learning on the job. My first year in the MPP program also helped to sharpen my presentation skills and speaking style. Such continued practice helped me when I presented at the MFCSP statewide meeting in August.

5) How do you see this internship fitting into your wider career goals and helping you at Heller moving forward?

Both my confidence and passion in my work have grown a lot after my time at EOEA. I am entering my second year at Heller with a lot of excitement and optimism for the future. After working at EOEA, I am even more certain that I want to pursue a job in the government after graduation.

Caroline Swaller – National Partnership for Women & Families

Caroline Swaller, at the United State of Women Summit, 2016

Hi there! My name is Caroline Swaller. I am a dual Master’s of Public Policy/Master’s of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies candidate for graduation in May of 2017 (such a long title). I am currently the Social Chair of the MPPSA and most of my free time is devoted to Title IX and being a hardcore advocate for better sexual assault policies on college campuses.

I am currently interning at the National Partnership for Women & Families as the Workplace Policy and Research Intern (another long title) in Washington D.C.. Most of my summer activities have been devoted to researching and lobbying for paid leave at the federal level. There are multiple tactics at play to get Congressional sign on for paid leave and paid sick days. The National Partnership has helped to draft and is now lobbying for three bills: The Healthy Families Act, The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (FAMILY Act), and the Fair Scheduling Act. We also devote a significant portion of our research and time advocating for SAFE days so victim/survivors of domestic violence can take necessary time off work to attend to court hearings, mental health needs, and other necessary emotional support needs.

At the National Partnership we tackle these issues through a multifaceted approach involving research, advocacy/lobbying, and legal work. As a part of the research team I have spent my summer researching the Racial Wealth Gap and International Paid Leave policies among OECD countries similar to the United States in an effort to determine what needs to shift politically in the US and where does new research need to occur in order for the United States to finally approve paid leave.  I have lobbied on the Hill with our Government Affairs Manager and acted as a handler during the Workplace and Policy Research Conference academic meetings with Hill members. I’ve helped prep for and provided research and data for multiple congressional briefings and I’ve contributed to several fact sheets, literature reviews, and original research happening at the National Partnership.

So how did I get this awesome internship? A stroke of luck coupled with a solid resume. I had missed the original deadline for the National Partnership for Women & Families because I was being a disorganized graduate student. But lucky for me the National Partnership reached back to Tam Emerson to see if anyone was interested and thanks to the email introduction between our lovely Editor-in-Chief and blog founder Brie McLemore the stars aligned and this internship happened. Aside from that, I feel incredibly lucky to be working with the National Partnership as they have been a leader in advancing social justice for women since the 1960s. The National Partnership is the reason the Family and Medical Leave Act exists, and what makes me love them even more is that they admit letting it get passed unpaid was a mistake and now they work even harder to rectify it.

My time at Heller over the course of my first year taught me to read quickly and selectively and also gave me the necessary knowledge base to be able to succeed in my internship. Understanding the complex way bills are passed through Congress has directed my research eyes to know what it is important what should be put aside for another project. Furthermore, the collaborative work with my cohort has made me a better team player and more importantly a better listener, which when you’re an intern is probably the best skill to have.

Overall, the National Partnership for Women & Families has shown me what my ultimate career goal might be: Government Affairs Manager. I love the atmosphere of the Hill, but I love even more to be there with a purpose and a cause that promotes social justice. I’ve learned here that given the current makeup of Congress our job  will never be done so I’m pretty confident I’ll always have job security (unless Paul Ryan magically wakes up a feminist—doubtful I know). Moving forward at Heller my ability to focus in has increased so much over my time here. My first year I spent a lot of time getting lost in the weeds of policy and now I feel like I have a better grip on how this whole crazy federalism thing really works.

Interning with the National Partnership for Women & Families has been incredible beyond words and I really really really don’t’ want to leave, but I have two degrees to finish and one year to do it in. Here we go!

P.S. the picture is from the United State of Women Summit because I am the luckiest feminist in the whole wide world.

Caroline Swaller
MPP/MA Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Candidate ’17
Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Nicholas Croce – Government Accountability Office (GAO)


(Nicholas Croce, far right, 2nd year M.P.P student at Heller)

GAO — The Congressional Watchdog

 It’s 3 A.M. A Congressional staffer wakes up in a cold sweat. There’s a policy question swirling in their head, and they can’t shake it — “but what to do? Who to call?” Have no fear, Congress — The Watchdog is here!

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been around since the 1920’s, advising Congress on pressing matters facing the Nation. GAO is the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of the United States, and it performs policy analysis and program audits on federal agencies and issues like the federal debt, on behalf of Congress. Its organization is structured into twelve mission teams, including Financial Markets and Community Investment, Natural Resources and the Environment, and Homeland Security and Justice.

I’ve been working as a GAO Student Trainee for a few months and have been impressed by the organization’s high level of professionalism, and its commitment to non-partisanship and fact-based analysis, commitments built upon three core values: Accountability, Integrity, and Reliability. GAO’s workforce is spread out among 11 field offices and Washington, D.C.  My engagement team has been putting into action GAO’s core values through our work on Diversity in the Technology Sector. The engagement — part of the Education, Workforce, and Income Security (EWIS) mission team — is examining the levels of diversity in technology industries, and the federal role in promoting and ensuring such diversity.

All in all, it has been a great experience to learn a bit about how Congress monitors federal programs. As a citizen, it is reassuring to learn that such an agency exists. And, its results speak for themselves. GAO recommendations saved the Government over $74.7 billion in FY2015. The agency’s budget totaled $551 million — a return of $134 on every dollar allocated to GAO. In my opinion, that’s fiscal responsibility at its finest, and we as a nation should continue investing in impactful and measured policy analysis and audits.

Nicholas Croce
MPP Candidate ’17
Heller School for Social Policy and Management
Concentration: Poverty Alleviation

Now Introducing: Dispatches from the Field

Greetings from the Masters in Public Policy Student Association Heller Blog!

After a brief hiatus, we are back with a new segment entitled “Dispatches from the Field.” This summer, many of the Heller MPP students embarked on exciting internships in Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. We worked for a variety of organizations addressing a multitude of issues, ranging from healthcare, to the gender wage gap, to mass incarceration. During this series, many of the Heller MPP students will discuss their internship projects, what they learned, and how their internships will shape their work at Heller and beyond. Stay tuned!

Brie McLemore, the MPPSA Publications Committee Chair