Diving into Faculty Scholarship: Data & Digital Humanities Edition: Dr. Jennifer Mellor

Jennifer MellorOur faculty at William & Mary are making great contributions to academia with their research. In this new addition to our Diving into Faculty Scholarship blog series, we interview faculty with recent data and digital humanities projects for insight into their scholarship.

Dr. Jennifer Mellor, (Professor, Economics and Public Policy) shares about her project using the The Health and Retirement Study data in a study co-authored with William & Mary alum Renee Garrow ’20 and published about in Health Services Research, “The impact of Medicaid expansion on spending and utilization by older low-income Medicare beneficiaries.”

In 2-3 sentences, describe your scholarship to someone unfamiliar with the field.
Our work uses data from a large national survey of older adults to study how Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act affected people who were not directly targeted by the expansion. That is, the ACA expanded Medicaid to adults aged 19-64, and we examined whether this policy had effects on low-income people aged 65 and up. These types of effects, called spillover effects, can mean that the costs and benefits of a policy are different than policy makers anticipate if they only focus on the direct effects. We found that Medicaid expansion to working-age adults increased older adults' participation in Medicaid too and increased their healthcare spending in the Medicare program.

What was the most exciting/interesting part of this project for you?
There were two exciting parts of the project. The first was working closely with a new researcher: my former student, Renee Garrow. Renee brought a lot of energy and ideas to the project. The second part was working with data that was new to us.

What type of data did you work with?
We worked with restricted access data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). While we had worked previously with the survey, it was the first time working with data from Medicare claims and other administrative data that were linked to the HRS respondents' survey information.

Any tips for those interested in working with data for their research?
Working with data takes careful attention to detail and long periods of study and planning. This work is critical so that you can understand your data and do sound research. The payoff at the end - producing new findings that can inform public programs - makes it all worthwhile!

How did W&M Libraries help support your scholarship?
Thanks to W&M Libraries OA programs, we were able to make the article available to all scholars through open access!

Where can people learn more about your project?
A journal article about The Health and Retirement Study was published in Health Services Research and can be found at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6773.14155