Course to look at changing needs of health care 'safety net' population

April 10, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A new health policy and administration course to be offered in the fall 2015 semester will take a look at the changing needs and services for impoverished patients, such as migrant workers, the homeless and rural residents, who do not have health care coverage and fall into what is known as the “safety net.”

The course, HPA 497 Safety Net Health Care, will focus on the level of services and resources available for people who do not have formal access to health care — a population that has changed since the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but still exists.

Students studying health policy and administration will likely work with people in the safety net, so should understand such patients’ needs as well as resources and services available, according to Caprice Knapp, senior lecturer/research associate professor of health policy and administration.

“The goal of this course is for students to realize we have our own vulnerable populations in the U.S., what infrastructure is in place for this population and what challenges this population faces,” Knapp said. “The needs are much more prevalent than students may think.”

The course will provide students with knowledge about what safety net health care is, how it is delivered and financed, and current policy and practice initiatives related to safety net care.

“In health care, safety net is a generic term that is often used to describe services that are available to impoverished individuals, some of whom are insured and some are not,” Knapp said. “The safety net can also be described as a group of clinics, hospitals and providers that have purposively decided to provide services to impoverished patients. This decision may be based on altruism, but oftentimes an organization or provider must carefully consider the financial implications of providing this care.”

Students will review how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has impacted services for the safety net population. Students will also learn how poverty is defined in the United States and other countries and how that definition affects social insurance benefits such as cash, in-kind, services and transfer payments. 

“Given the challenges that public and private organizations face in providing safety net health care, we will learn about several novel approaches that have been developed,” Knapp said. “The course will also look at how the safety net is organized in other countries. We will also see how the safety net can be an indicator of a country’s values and beliefs in regard to health.”

The course will highlight information about India through a partnership with Pune University, a Penn State Global Engagement Network partner.

When focusing on international programs, the course will highlight India through a partnership with Pune University, a Penn State Global Health partner.

The course will feature guest speakers and require students to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Challenge in which participants live on the federal daily food aid benefit of about $4 a day for one week.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 13, 2015