Theory Testing and Obamacare

11/16/12

In my research methods classes I often teach students about the research process. We design a research study with a certain method and particular measures. We then use theoretical models to develop hypotheses that predict what should happen under certain circumstances. Then after conducting the study we analyze the data to see if the results support the predictions made by our theories. In some cases we are able to pair competing theories (which predict opposite results) against each other, and the results will tell us which theory made the more accurate prediction, in other words, which theory better reflects reality.

With the re-election of President Obama and an increased majority in the Senate, what we now know is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is going to be the law of the land. So this provides a great opportunity for a study to see which of two competing theories more accurately predict the outcomes. In all of the arguments leading up to this point we have heard competing theories regarding the outcomes of the act. One side has predicted that it will reduce costs, significantly increase the number covered, and in some cases even increase jobs. The other side has predicted that costs will go up, that the number of insured will not increase nearly as much as the other side suggests, and that it will reduce the number of jobs (specifically FTE's in favor of part-time employees).

This sounds like an ideal opportunity to see which of two very divergent political worldviews provide a more accurate reflection of reality. CHROs will be the sources for much of the data as they will be the ones who know how costs changed and how their employment numbers have changed. I can't wait to see how this experiment turns out!