What policymakers say they need to know about Medicare

In my experience, it’s a rare health economist or health services researcher who doesn’t want his or her work to be relevant to policymakers. The problem, however, is that few of us have access to policymakers to ask them what, specifically, they want to know.

Fortunately, as part of its Translation and Dissemination Institute,* AcademyHealth has undertaken the “Listening Project” that fills this gap. They released their first report—on Medicare—earlier this week. It’s based on interviews with 24 policymakers and non-governmental experts about research needs, data gaps, research process improvements, political context, and improved dissemination.

Here are just some of the things policymakers want to know more about:

  • How ACOs are internally structured, coordinate care, compensate participating providers, and about any unintended consequences of the model
  • The “inner workings” of Medicare Advantage plans, how they coordinate care and realize efficiency
  • How greater employment of physicians by hospitals affects access, costs, and quality
  • The impact of technology on costs
  • How to manage high-cost beneficiaries
  • The causes and implications of the recent slowdown in Medicare spending
  • More about how Medicare’s hospice benefit is used and its impact on cost and quality of care and life

I hope that proposals to funding organizations that demonstrate responsiveness to Listening Project themes are given a little extra consideration. Making research relevant to policy is important, and knowing what policymakers want to know is a first step. There is more and more detail in the report. Go read it.

* Disclosure: I serve on the Translation and Dissemination Institute’s advisory committee.


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