By David Craig, Religious Studies professor and chair
“Sometimes you need to be heard. We need to know there’s somebody listening.” A man, who was formerly homeless, spoke these words in praise of three women, a nurse, a counselor, and a care coordinator, who “would listen. They would listen.”
Together they helped him through his recovery and into an apartment with furniture, pots, pans, and food. This man credits Indiana’s Medicaid expansion, the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), for enabling him to access their support. As he put it two years into his apartment living, HIP “creates add-ons. It brings more things to you. And so that would be a really good plus for your study, that it brings more things to the client, to the patient. People think it’s just insurance; there’s more to HIP than you see.”
“Somebody listening” was also the goal of a community-engaged study. The research team included leaders at First Baptist Church North Indianapolis in the city’s near northwest and Shepherd Community Center on the eastside along with design researchers from the Herron School of Fine Art and Design. They collected stories of neighbors’ and congregants’ experiences with health, wellness, and HIP—just in time for Indiana’s proposed ten-year extension of the waiver that allows HIP to operate outside certain Medicaid rules.
Indiana is the only state that requires people earning less than 50% of the Federal Poverty Level (about $700 per month) to pay premiums to receive full health benefits. At this income level, even the payments of $1-2 per month are barriers for people’s enrolling in HIP Plus, HIP’s comprehensive health plan.
Listening to HIP members, success stories are matched by many stories of people’s challenges in navigating the program and advocating for better health and wellness.
To convey what we learned and how study participants’ input and solutions were harvested, the research team presented study results in two community-partner-produced videos and a final report. This study offers a unique perspective on HIP’s strengths and weaknesses through our focus on personal experiences and stories. The study also tracks how community partners are building trust and relationships in their neighborhoods, transforming HIP members’ ability to obtain, keep, and use health benefits.
Our findings demonstrate the difference between HIP naked—with individuals personally responsible for HIP on their own—and HIP clothed—with the relational and resource support that many health-seekers may take for granted.
This study illustrates the power of collaborative work between community and university. The research team includes Rev. Dr. Ivan Douglas Hicks, Stephanie Patterson, and George Armstrong (First Baptist North), Andrew Green (Shepherd Community), Maria Meschi and Assistant Professor Pamela Napier (Herron), and Matthew Wilcox and Fiona Schicho (Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute).
We thank the Indiana Minority Health Coalition for funding and support.
For videos and report, see: https://iu.box.com/s/uz77xka6k66d9cvy47vkvcavcgm7am97