This week, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced nine research grants, the results of which should help states implement various provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Commonwealth Fund released an issue brief on progress toward getting health insurance exchanges up and running in three states. And the Empire Health Foundation, a relatively new foundation in eastern Washington State, funded a study of how the federal Basic Health Program option would do in that state.

The RWJF grants are under the State Health Access Reform Evaluation (SHARE) program, which is based at the University of Minnesota and directed by Lynn Blewett. This research is expected to provide timely insights for states, because results will be disseminated as grantees achieve specific aims of their projects or complete phases of their work, Donna Spencer, SHARE deputy director, told me. Deadlines are looming to meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act, so this guidance will undoubtedly be welcome. “States have about 18 months remaining to prepare for a considerable expansion in the number of residents eligible for Medicaid and for the launch of state health insurance exchanges under the ACA,” Blewett said in a July 18 press release. Even in states that have made the most progress, there is still plenty of work to get done. “State officials and their staff[s] are hungry for data that will shed light on what approaches may best meet the unique needs of their residents,” she said.

The program aims “to develop a coordinated approach” to studying health reform issues “from a state perspective” and “to produce and disseminate informative, user-friendly findings” for both state and federal policy makers and government agencies.

Grantees applied, and were chosen through, a competitive process, a foundation spokesperson told me. The total amount to be awarded on this third round of funding is approximately $1.5 million for the nine grants.

Here are just a few examples of the grants awarded.

(a)  Rural Implementation and Impact of Medicaid Expansion: Andy Coburn of the University of Southern Maine, principal investigator.

(b)  Planning for ACA Coverage Expansion: How Insurance Coverage for Childless Adults Will Affect Utilization (of care): Thomas DeLeire of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, principal investigator.

(c)  Behavioral Health and Care for Chronic Medical Conditions in Pennsylvania: The Role of the Medical Home. Karin Rhodes of the University of Pennsylvania, principal investigator.

For a complete list of grantees, projects, project descriptions, and more, go here.

The State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, manages the program and will provide technical assistance for the new grantees.

Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra): Other Research

“Establishing Health Insurance Exchanges: Three States’ Progress” is an issue brief released by the Commonwealth Fund on July 17. Written by Mark Hall of Wake Forest University School of Law and Katherine Swartz of Harvard School of Public Health, the brief looks at the experiences of three states—California, Colorado, and Maryland—which were among the first states to enact laws establishing exchanges that are called for in the Affordable Care Act. The initial decisions made by these states will be useful to others implementing exchanges, Commonwealth says. The brief contains a handy table describing the three states’ approaches to “key exchange design issues.” Their exchanges are still works-in-progress, though. In the “Implications” section of the brief, Hall and Swartz comment that the decisions made by the three states in 2011 and early 2012 “indicate strong collective determination to make the most of the opportunities afforded by the Affordable Care Act to improve market conditions for individuals and small employers so they can obtain health insurance.”

As I was doing some research for an upcoming GrantWatch column, I came upon findings from a study “The ACA Basic Health Program in Washington State,” which the Urban Institute prepared. Empire Health Foundation, as part of the Washington State Health Philanthropy Partnership, Community Health Network of Washington, and SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Washington State Council supported the work, in partnership with three other organizations.

No, Empire Health is not in New YorkState; it funds in the eastern part of Washington State! The foundation and others commissioned this Urban study to analyze the “viability in Washington State of the Federal Basic Health Program, a new state option under national health reform that been called the ‘best kept secret’ of health reform,” according to a May 10 press release. The Evergreen State has had its own Basic Health Plan? for some twenty-five years. The federal health reform law “would use newly available federal funds to cover [people] with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level through a similar program beginning in 2014,” the release explains. Read the key findings of the Urban Institute analysis.

Empire Health Foundation is now working in two areas: healthy lifestyles/obesity prevention and mental health.

Read a GrantWatch Blog post by Marian Mulkey of California HealthCare Foundation titled “Should California Establish a Basic Health Program for Certain Low-Income Residents?” (May 10).