HPA Summer 2011 e-Newsletter — Faculty and Staff News

Professor’s research earns evidence-based certification

“Together Facing the Challenge,” based on Associate Professor of Health Policy and Administration Betsy Farmer's research on improving treatment and outcomes in treatment foster care, has been certified as an evidence-based treatment by the California Clearinghouse on Evidence-Based Interventions. This organization is one of the nation's leading sources for identifying empirically supported treatment approaches for treating children involved with child welfare.

Treatment foster care (TFC) is a commonly used residential option for youth with mental health and behavioral problems. Research by Farmer and her colleagues over the past 12 years has shown that TFC, as it is usually practiced, does not conform to the only previously recognized evidence-based version of TFC or to nationally developed standards of care. However, better implementation in key areas (e.g., training and supervision of treatment foster parents, use of behavioral intervention techniques, and better relationship between treatment parents and youth) are related to better outcomes for youth.

Since 2003, Farmer and colleagues have been developing and testing (via an NIMH-funded randomized trial) a training/consultation approach to improving treatment in TFC. This intervention, Together Facing the Challenge (TFTC), showed improved outcomes for youth as well as better implementation of key practices by treatment parents.

The recent rating by the California Clearinghouse means that agencies will now be more aware of this option for improving treatment. Also, agencies that use TFTC now have documented support that they are employing an evidence-based intervention, a factor that is becoming increasingly important as policy makers talk about “only paying for things that work.”

Hillemeier among Academic Leadership Program fellows

Marianne Hillemeier

Marianne Hillemeier, associate professor of health policy and administration and demography, is among five Penn State faculty members to be named a fellow in The Committee on Institutional Cooperation's (CIC) Academic Leadership Program.

The CIC is the academic consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago. Through its leadership program, participants who have demonstrated exceptional ability and administrative promise are aided in further developing their leadership and managerial skills.

Those selected from Penn State for the 2011-12 program have been chosen because of their significant contributions and potential to undertake key leadership responsibilities at the University.

The Academic Leadership Program involves the fellows in a series of three, two-day seminars, plus readings and participation in related activities on their home campuses between seminars. The program is geared specifically toward answering the challenges of academic administration at major research universities. Fellows are appointed to terms of one year and funding is provided by participating institutions.

For more information on the CIC, visit www.cic.uiuc.edu.

Spokus earns Master Certified Health Education Specialist credentials

Diane Spokus

Diane Spokus, instructor of health policy and administration, has earned Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) credentials through the National Committee for Health Education Credentialing.

Receiving MCHES credentials indicates that an educator has met academic and experience requirements, passed a certification assessment, and is compliant with ongoing continuing education requirements. Another basis for the certification is meeting areas of responsibility and competencies in an advanced level of practice in health education.

New report focuses on affordable insurance through life changes

Pamela Farley Short

Pamela Farley Short, professor of health policy and administration, is the lead author on a Commonwealth Fund report that recommends ways to ensure affordable health insurance through job and income changes.

Modifications to current policies could help ensure that health insurance coverage and subsidies provided under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remain stable even through major life changes, according to the report. At least 34 million people will gain new coverage under the law. The report’s authors stress the importance of ensuring that life changes, such as fluctuations in income and job transitions, do not cause abrupt changes in people’s health insurance coverage or financial responsibilities for their premiums or care.

“The Affordable Care Act will ensure universal access to affordable coverage and provide a single point of entry for people to qualify for help in paying for health insurance,” says Farley Short. “To minimize gaps and churning in health insurance, however, it will be critical that federal and state policymakers implementing the law make sure that it is simple for people to sign up for, pay for, and keep their coverage when their lives change. This will also help reduce administrative costs to federal and state governments.”

According to the report, titled “Realizing Health Reform’s Potential: Maintaining Coverage, Affordability, and Shared Responsibility When Income and Employment Change,” people could experience coverage gaps or changes in financial responsibility for a number of reasons. For example, since premium tax credits are based on income from prior year tax returns, people with income changes might receive too much or too little in subsidy and then face an unexpected bill or, conversely, become eligible for more subsidy. Recent legislation increased the amount that people would have to pay back if their income rose above their prior year returns.

In order to reduce the potential for gaps and churning in coverage, the authors recommend a series of policy steps that state and federal policymakers could consider to smooth the process for families and to help limit administrative burdens. For example, they recommend making coverage choices valid for one year, instead of requiring that people select new coverage with every life change.

“The promise of the Affordable Care Act is that, for the first time ever, all Americans will have access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance, with far more information about their benefits and out-of-pocket costs,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. “However, in order to reach health reform’s full potential, policymakers must take care to implement the law in a way that will take the guesswork and uncertainty out of people’s health insurance decisions.”

The full report, which was co-authored by Namrata Uberoi, graduate student, health policy and administration at Penn State; Deborah Graefe, research associate in Penn State’s Social Sciences Research Institute; and Katherine Swartz of Harvard University, is available online at www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/Issue-Briefs/2011/May/Maintaining-Coverage.aspx.

For more information, contact Short at PamShort@psu.edu, or contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.

HPA professors honored with promotions

Betsy Farmer and Rhonda BeLue have been promoted in the Department of Health Policy and Administration. Farmer advanced from associate professor to full professor, while BeLue became an associate professor with tenure.

Farmer’s research and teaching interests focus on research methods, program evaluation, mental health, and children’s services. BeLue’s teaching and research interests are in health disparities in families and children, evaluation methodology, and medical decision making.

Recent publications by HPA faculty and students

The following is a list of recent publications involving faculty members and students in the Department of Health Policy and Administration: