Dr Anne L. Schwartz on Data in Healthcare Policy

Anne L. Schwartz, PhD, executive director of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC), discusses the role of MACPAC in sharing data with policy makers.

What role should data play in shaping healthcare policy?
Ideally, data should be used to inform policy decisions and evaluation of policy. That’s core to what MACPAC does. We try to provide evidence and data to inform policy decisions on Medicaid and CHIP that are being by congress, by the Department of Health and Human Services, and by the states. There are sometimes moments where the right data don’t exist but data always help us better understand who the program is serving, what it is spending, where gaps are and whether policies are having their intended results.

How can organizations like MACPAC work to share data and evidence with policy makers in a way that can be readily understood in the current environment?
One of the signature products from MACPAC is our data compilation called MACSTATS. When MACPAC got started, we realized that data on Medicaid and CHIP were scattered on numerous sources in different federal agencies, buried in federal data sources, so we created this data resource to be able to inform both federal and state decision makers. It’s something that’s on our website, has information on trends and enrollment and spending, as well as basic information about the program such as eligibility levels for groups across states.

One thing that I find really somewhat amusing, but also gratifying, about MACSTATS is in this age of electronic information, we of course have it online, we have it in PDFs, and we have it in Excel so people can access it at any time. But we also still publish a print book and we know that’s really important to people. People on the Hill keep that book on their desk to thumb through to find out information about their state in different aspects of the program. 
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