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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Thesis Etc.

Our internet at home hasn't been working properly, and Comcast is in no rush to fix it, so I'm writing from a lab on campus.

After some equivocating as to whether I would write a thesis or not, last Monday I finally decided to go for it. I met with a professor at Public Health (who's a friend of Annie's) who told me that he wasn't sure there was anyone there who could help me very well with my idea about consumer health information and market mechanisms in health care. But after describing my interests he recommended doing an analysis of Maryland's so-called "Wal-Mart Law," which requires large employers that don't spend more than 8% of payroll costs on health care to either spend more or pay the state the difference to help cover the extra Medicaid costs. Of course, the only company that fits this description is Wal-Mart. The law, passed last year, was just struck down by a federal judge a couple weeks ago, so its future is uncertain, but it attracted a lot of notice and other states are considering similar moves.

I thought this was actually a pretty good topic idea, so I'm going with it. To some extent, I will do an analysis of what the effects of the law are likely to be and whether it's an effective policy, but the main focus of the paper will be on a policy process perspective -- i.e. how did we move from a problem to this particular solution. For many people with a stake in the debate, the law came out of nowhere, and seems not to follow some of the major theories of process literature, so it'll be an interesting case study. The Public Health professor knows the main advocate behind the law fairly well, and he apparently would be happy to work with me, which will be a great resource for getting a good sense of all the machinations. My research will be very heavy on interviews with the parties involved (legislators, advocates, lobbyists, etc).

I stayed up rather late last night to write my proposal (an exciting Saturday night), because the proposals are due a week from tomorrow -- last-minute as always. I'll be revising it this week with my advisor. There is no requirement to write a thesis in my program, and it is supposed to be seen as an honor to do so; there is a faculty committee that selects the students who will write a thesis based on these proposals. So I do have to get past that first.

In other news, we have lined up a final new housemate, Susie from Oakland, CA. I've never met her, but she seemed cool the times we talked on the phone. She'll be starting a PhD program in epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the end of August.

1 comment:

lj said...

Very cool, Teague. It seems like it's been pretty easy for you to get direct contacts for neat projects there...or perhaps this perception is only because I hear about the results after the fact. But in any case, congrats on finding something, and good luck w/ the revising and committees and such.