University of Texas offers Obamacare graduate course

Past being regular recipients of public policy skepticism, state higher education programs and Obamacare are finding new commonality as the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs is offering a course Enrolling in Health Insurance Through the Affordable Care Act: An Austin Case Study.

The LBJ School of Public Affairs is a graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin. Founded in 1970 to offer professional training in public policy analysis and administration for students interested in pursuing careers in government and public affairs-related areas of the private and nonprofit sectors, the school offers both Masters and Ph.D. programs.

This Obamacare graduate level course is divided into two parts. The course description listed for the first part offered in fall 2013 states:

Collaborating with Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities

This Policy Research Project will have two interrelated parts. First we will be providing the information and analysis on Texas for a state by state study of Affordable Care Act implementation with an initial focus on the development and availability of the state level exchange and enrollment readiness in October of 2013 and then the initial workings of the exchange[s] from January through March of 2014. This project is being directed and coordinated by Richard Nathan under the aegis of the Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government at SUNY Albany and the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. The study focuses on the following three issues: (1) Who governs (agencies, offices, program leaders); (2) The interagency and federal-state relationships that develop; and (3) State-level operations of the principal coverage expanding policies adopted in the new law.

Some of the issues we will describe and document in the post-October report will be Exchange Structure and Strategy, Exchange Leadership, Personnel (Staffing), Enrollment Readiness, Navigational Assistance, Outreach/Sign-Up/ Educational Activities, Interagency Relations, Intergovernmental Relations, Public-Private Relationships, Program Articulation, and Qualified Health Plan Availability. We anticipate that the report on the first three months of operation will include a number of other issues as well.

The second part of the PRP involves facilitating and analyzing enrollment of individuals into exchanges in collaboration with Foundation Communities, an Austin non-profit that focuses on housing and other support services for low income people. Foundation Communities will be building on their successful tax assistance initiative and seek to enroll 5000 individuals into insurance between October and March. It is anticipated that the members of the PRP will complete training to become certified navigators eligible to enroll persons under the ACA and in fact will spend a reasonable amount of time doing that at a Foundation Communities center. In addition to volunteering as navigators it is anticipated that some of the students will develop and administer a questionnaire to a sample of enrollees and potential enrollees to evaluate their motivations in coming to the center[s] as well as the basis for enrolling or not and to improve the services provided by Foundation Communities.

The spring semester appears a continuation of the fall course.

So it is “anticipated” that students paying to be in this course will be trained as “certified navigators eligible to enroll persons under the ACA and in fact will spend a reasonable amount of time doing that at a Foundation Communities center.”

Obamacare enrollment is expected to be a challenge. The general population’s skepticism and resentment of its often forced entry into the government’s health care marketplace won’t aid this effort.

Attracting young, healthy people to a health care plan that is both financially impractical and functionally ill-suited to their needs also won’t be an easy sell. And when the non-compliance penalty for this government mandate is less onerous than the mandate’s alleged “prize,” the former will undoubtedly have more appeal than the latter.

The Obamacare website rollout has been troubled with the tab still open on its cost to taxpayers. The term “glitch” has found new status with even the purported smiling-faced Obamacare enrollee later named “glitch girl” having disappeared.

Promotional efforts are now underway to not only do damage control from the Obamacare launch, but to ratchet up enrollments. Americans for Tax Reform have offered the Top 5 Most Ludicrous Taxpayer-Funded Obamacare Promotions. Social media will be a prominent tool in pushing signups. Hipness, topless and even human-less are among the approaches being used.

The lure of college credit as an incentive to promote this government mandate should be no surprise. Opponents of the program regularly criticize the complexity of Obamacare. An Obamacare college course will be an eye-roller for many, but it being offered at the graduate level only speaks further to its complicated nature and execution.

In the meantime, as new government intrusions assert higher premiums and reduced health care options into the lives of most Americans, a college course promoting this program should once again encourage higher education consumers to direct new scrutiny toward the quality and value of services provided by Texas colleges and universities.

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks about a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses the growing issue of probate abuse in which wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney are used to loot assets from intended beneficiaries or heirs.

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