UMass Boston Gerontology Student Earns National Award

McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies | October 16, 2014
UMass Boston's Gerontology PhD student Elizabeth Chen

UMass Boston's Gerontology PhD student Elizabeth Chen

Elizabeth Chen, a PhD candidate in gerontology at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, has earned the Person-in-Training Award from the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) for her paper, “Does enrollment in capitated health plans predict location of death? ”

Chen submitted her abstract to participate in the GSA’s Annual Scientific Meeting in November as a guest lecturer. Not only was her topic accepted, but her paper was chosen as the best student paper in the health sciences section. Describing her paper, Chen notes, “Most individuals prefer to die at home, yet large numbers die in a hospital. I wanted to understand if economic incentives in the Medicare Advantage plan could lead to outcomes consistent with patient wishes when facing the end of life."

Using data from the 2008 and 2010 Health and Retirement Study, Chen incorporated a rich set of social, health, and advance planning variables, not available in Medicare data, to test the hypothesis that enrollees in capitated plans−defined as a health care plan that sets a flat fee cap or payment for each patient it covers− were more likely to die outside a hospital setting.

She sampled 1047 individuals enrolled in Medicare at the time of their death. “Enrollees in capitation were 48% more likely to die outside a hospital than enrollees in the fee-for-service plan,” said Chen. “The Affordable Care Act discontinued incentives for private insurers to enroll patients in Medicare Advantage. Policymakers may want to consider continuing these incentives, particularly since the managed care health insurance market can have spillover effects into the fee-for-service market."

Chen’s winning paper was a 1200 word research paper based on a 12,000 word paper written for one of her gerontology courses. Professor Frank Porell was the course master and primary collaborator, Elizabeth Dugan and Edward Miller reviewed and commented on drafts; all three are co-authors on the larger research paper.

Department Chair Jeffrey Burr praises the research team. “Gerontology@UMassBoston is a leading center for the research and academic study of policy issues in an aging society.  Elizabeth’s award is just the latest example of the kind of high quality student-faculty collaboration that is a hallmark of our department. Kudos to Elizabeth and her faculty mentors.”

Dean Ira A. Jackson shares in the accolades. “This award is indicative of the type of quality students that the McCormack Graduate School attracts. We recognized Elizabeth’s talents last year when we appointed her as a member of the inaugural group of McCormack Scholars at our college. She definitely represents the best and brightest in the next generation of gerontology leaders.”

Elizabeth Chen will receive a $500 award to support her research as well as a framed certificate at the GSA meeting in Washington, DC on November 7.

Tags: gerontology , research

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