Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured

An RWJF National Program

Dates of Program: October 2000 to August 2009

Field of Work: Increasing understanding of the relationships among labor markets, health care markets and health insurance coverage.

Problem Synopsis: Almost 60 percent of people with health insurance obtain coverage through their employers. By 2006, 47 million Americans were uninsured. Yet, 22 million of the uninsured people were full-time workers, and 5.6 million were part-time workers. Therefore, issues of health coverage are closely tied to decisions about work. According to David C. Colby, PhD, RWJF's Vice President for Research and Evaluation, "The federal government was not funding much research on coverage and economics, so this area of study was not attracting many researchers."

Synopsis of the Work: The Research Initiative on Health Insurance, publicly known as the Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured, reached out to new economists and economists whose research had not traditionally focused on health and provided them with information to shorten their learning curve; funded health and non-health economists to conduct original research; provided structured settings in which funded researchers and others shared ideas; and disseminated findings to policymakers.

Key Results

  • The initiative funded more than 60 scientific studies involving more than 100 researchers from more than 30 institutions. Study areas included:

    • costs of health insurance
    • demand for health insurance
    • employment-based coverage
    • labor markets
    • near-elderly population
    • vulnerable populations
    • welfare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • As of August 2008, researchers funded by the initiative had produced a book, two book chapters, more than 40 articles in peer-reviewed journals and about 60 conference and seminar presentations.

  • The initiative produced and disseminated products that translated scientific findings for broader audiences.

  • The initiative hosted nine research conferences, as well as several special events: a conference for policy-makers and journalists, a book release event and a webinar. Each event was attended by between 60 and 65 people; the webinar had 80 attendees.