IRP Announces Expanded Health Policy Research Initiatives

MADISON—The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW) recently added a new Medicaid Evaluation, Research, and Technical Assistance (MERTA) unit in an expansion of IRP’s health policy research.

This expanded partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) will include a robust scope of data sharing, research, and evaluation activities supporting the state’s Medicaid program, which includes BadgerCare, SeniorCare, and other public health insurance programs. These programs provide health coverage for Wisconsin’s low-income elderly, blind, and disabled residents, children, pregnant women, parents, caregiver adults, and impoverished adults without dependent children.

Wisconsin policymakers have sought innovative ways to build on private insurance coverage, leveraging Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace, to assure that Wisconsin residents get needed coverage and care. The public and private sectors, through these programs, work together to promote health, employability, and functional well-being. Their success thus far has resulted from a collaborative multi-sector approach, based in evidence about what works, and the determination of a group of policymakers to develop workable solutions.

MERTA brings together under one umbrella several Medicaid-related projects longstanding between the UW and DHS. IRP Director Lawrence Berger notes, “Welcoming the highly successful MERTA unit to our core initiatives reflects IRP’s emphasis on working with government partners to inform policy and help maximize the effectiveness of public expenditures on behalf of disadvantaged families. It’s a perfect fit that complements our other mutually beneficial partnerships with Wisconsin state agencies.”

Two primary branches of inquiry fall within IRP’s MERTA:

  1.  Evaluate program and policy changes planned for or occurring in Wisconsin Medicaid, as authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under federally authorized § 1115 research and demonstration waivers. The CMS § 1115 waiver Special Terms and Conditions (STCs) to State Medicaid agencies specify guidelines for rigorous, independent evaluation. An IRP-based team of investigators will conduct these evaluations.
  2. Provide advanced research and analytical services to advance the purposes of the Medicaid program: effective operation, quality and efficiency of services, reduced costs, and improved outcomes for Medicaid enrollees. Research and evaluation topics, toward these goals, may be specified by DHS or may be initiated by UW investigators.

The MERTA and other IRP health policy research activities will produce memos, issue briefs, make presentations to State executive branch and elected officials, and publish peer-reviewed publications. To learn more, visit the IRP MERTA website.

The Institute for Research on Poverty was established in 1966 at the UW–Madison with funding from the federal government to serve as the nation’s center for the study of the nature, causes, and cures of poverty. It is a nonpartisan research institution dedicated to producing and disseminating rigorous evidence to inform policies and programs to combat poverty, inequality, and their effects in the United States.


Deborah Johnson,, (608) 262-7779