April 20, 2017

The Batten School’s First Policy Clinic Educates Congress During Health Care Debate

The Batten School’s first policy clinic director, Brooke Lehmann, MSW, Esq and three postgraduate clinic students educated Members of Congress about how vulnerable populations of children and youth use Medicaid on the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act becoming law.

As part of the Social Policy Clinic, Madeleine Shaw, Tara Holding, and Kristin Owen partnered with Professor Lehmann, researching and preparing short documents on the utilization of Medicaid by different populations, which would then be used to educate Hill staff and other relevant parties. The students attended several meetings with Hill staff to discuss the preservation on the entitlement program currently under debate.

Additionally, Professor Lehmann, through her company Capitolworks, LLC, and in collaboration with the Senate Finance Committee, hosted a Senate briefing that day which the students were able to attend and at which their documents were distributed to Hill staff. It was an action-packed day and one that offered these students a direct opportunity to be a part of federal policy development.

“Our trip to the Hill on the anniversary of the ACA taught me a lot about the intertwined process concerning advocacy and policymaking, and the different steps that an individual can take to influence policy,” said Owen.  “The process of writing the one-pagers to be passed out at the planned Senate hearing was a collaborative process, and gave us a glimpse into challenges of defining the scope of a policy issue, finding salient and credible research on the subject and shaping an argument into an informed, consumable narrative. The reward was witnessing dozens of Hill staffers reading our one-pagers at the Senate hearing.”

“We got to observe how an advocate works across the aisle to maintain relationships on both the Democratic and Republican side,” said Shaw.  “As we experienced the breadth of different dynamics across each of our four meetings, we came to understand that policymaking is a fluid process that is dependent on timing, state-based initiatives, and compromise. Being able to witness this on the anniversary of the ACA, and surrounding one of the biggest policy questions in the past decade was an experience that will shape our career aspirations in the future.”

“Our day on the Hill emphasized the importance of education and interpersonal negotiations in enacting policy,” added Holding.  “While we were educating the staffers about the nuances of our issue– child welfare and Medicaid reform–staffers were also educating us on their Senator’s current stance on the issue and the most up-to-date information they could provide on the proposed American Health Care Act as the number of votes changed throughout the day. It was an amazing day to be in the middle of the action, and actively work toward making children’s voices heard in Washington.”