Insurance Justice Research Project

Steering Committee : 
  • Anna Kirkland (IRWG, Women's Studies)
  • Sarah Burgard (ISR, Sociology)
  • Vanessa Dalton (Obstetrics and Gynecology)
  • Shauhin Talesh (UC Irvine)
  • Karra Greenberg (Postdoctoral fellow, IRWG)

The landscape of health insurance plans is extremely complex from the ordinary person's perspective, and private companies typically do not make details of their plans easily available for research. While federal employee plans, Medicaid plans, marketplace plans, and other publicly linked plans are available for study of their terms and costs, researchers have not been able to systematically study what private companies offer. 

Partnering with Leverage Global Consulting, led by UM alumna Christine Ferguson, to gain access to a proprietary health insurance database, IRWG researchers are looking at consumer- and patient-side insurance problems and barriers in areas such as women’s health, transgender health, contraception and abortion coverage, opioid addiction treatment coverage, and mental health coverage, and how these events drive life chances and economic circumstances among the insured population. Community-based research with transgender and non-binary people done by UM Social Work faculty member Shanna Kattari confirms that insurance barriers are a top research priority for this group, and the team will be gathering interviews this summer and fall with transgender patients about their insurance coverage experiences.

With funding from an Mcubed grant and the National Science Foundation, the team—Anna Kirkland (IRWG, Women's Studies), Sarah Burgard (ISR, Sociology), Vanessa Dalton (Obstetrics and Gynecology), Shauhin Talesh, an insurance law expert from UC Irvine, and Karra Greenberg, a postdoctoral fellow in Sociology—will model different costs, access, and complexities from the patient's perspective. The team is planning on seeking additional NSF funding and expanding collaborations.