As implementation of the Affordable Care Act begins, the university will adjust employee health insurance policies and ramp up educational innovations at the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

The ACA’s individual mandate goes into effect in January 2014, and employers must provide coverage by January 2015.

“Right now Georgetown is looking at the populations who we will be required to cover and putting policies into place that will allow us to be compliant with the act,” Assistant Vice President for Communications Stacy Kerr said.

“Georgetown as a large employer must comply with the act. Fortunately, we are ahead of schedule in terms of compliance with some of the provisions because a lot of these provisions were already in place at Georgetown,” she added, citing that university plans did not exclude coverage based on pre-existing conditions or have maximums on how much insurance companies can pay to customers.

However, universities, including Georgetown, face some difficulties in deciding how to implement changes to fulfill employee insurance requirements.

“The law is written under the corporate model, so a lot of things are unclear for higher education about how to cover non-traditional employees such as graduate students and Ph.D students, and discussions are going on at Georgetown about putting policies into place to be compliant with the law,” Kerr said.

The significant expansion in healthcare coverage resulting from the implementation of the ACA, coupled with increased governmental involvement, has led the NHS to pursue new approaches to healthcare education in order to meet the increased demand for healthcare professionals.

“Students enrolled in our undergraduate and graduate nursing programs will likely witness profound changes in the landscape of practice, as the ACA requires a primary care workforce that is already in short supply,” NHS Dean Martin Iguchi said. “We anticipate greater responsibility and independence in practice for nursing professionals in years to come, and NHS will play a significant part in the development of this workforce.”

The NHS has explored technology as a way to meet this goal, rolling out an online master’s nursing program in spring 2011.

In addition, the school has adapted quickly to the changing curriculum landscape, adding a public health minor that incorporates the skills necessary to participate in bureaucratized healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act will also influence research positively at Georgetown, according to Iguchi.

“The ACA’s emphasis on data-driven decision-making will create demand for research conducted by our students and faculty in areas such as the basic and medical sciences; health insurance coverage and quality of care; and population health and health literacy,” he said.

In addition, increased coverage will result in a larger pool of subjects which can lead to more accurate results, especially since doctors and hospitals, rather than insurance companies, will now provide patient data.

“Some of our current research methods relied on non-traditional sources of data for disease surveillance such as insurance claims data,” assistant professor of biology Shweta Bansal said. “These data sources clearly did not provide a complete picture before with 49 million uninsured Americans. More complete coverage under the ACA will allow us to rely on these data streams more confidently.”

Iguchi suggested that NHS students are already prepared for emerging focus areas, such as health policy and healthcare administration, because of their curriculum.

“We anticipate that these students will actively participate in the transformation of the healthcare system from a focus on illnesses and hospital-centric care to a focus on wellness and community-oriented care,” Iguchi said.

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