Assistant professor joins bike tour to learn about Obamacare


Assistant professor Alex Hollingsworth poses with his bike during a cross-country tour he joined with researchers from the University of Arizona. The team interviewed people living in rural America about how they viewed the Affordable Care Act (Courtesy Photo).

IU health economist Alex Hollingsworth joined a cross-country bicycle tour aimed at understanding why Americans oppose or support the Affordable Care Act.

Hollingsworth, along with the lead researcher Paul Gordon and others from the University of Arizona, approached people in parks, cafes and other public places to interview them about their opinions on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Their findings were published in an article in the April 2017 edition of the journal of Academic Medicine.

The bicycle tour started in Washington, D.C., and ended in Seattle. Hollingsworth joined the team in their trek through northern Ohio and assisted them with the paper following the end of the tour.

The researchers rode from April to July 2016 and then analyzed the data and wrote their research paper afterward.

They mostly biked through northern, rural states, which gave them an insight into how Americans from these areas of the country feel about the ACA, which is mostly negative.

Hollingsworth said in more than 100 interviews, most people’s opinions fell into similar categories.

“It was quite illuminating and very quickly we reached critical mass of the set of opinions,” he said. “If we had interviewed 10,000 more people, I think the majority of them would have fit into the same set.”

Those who were interviewed were concerned about similar things, including the cost of insurance from the ACA, government involvement in healthcare and paying for other people’s problems.

Hollingsworth and the research team interviewed a 35-year-old musician named Rob in eastern Ohio. He said he was not a fan of the individual mandate because he felt forced to purchase insurance. When the team brought up a similar mandate with car insurance, he replied that people can choose to drive a car but can’t choose to be alive and need insurance.

Rob said he purchases insurance in the private market and the price has increased three-fold. He believes this is solely because of the individual mandate because companies can, and are, trying to make more money off the population.

People can read more about Rob’s interview and others from the tour at

Interviews lasted as long as people wanted to talk and the researchers were careful not to put in their own bias or correct people, Hollingsworth said.

It was a different way to conduct research, but Hollingsworth said it added a missing piece to what researchers already know about Americans and the ACA.

“People are very opinionated about the ACA,” he said. “It seems to be a very politically divisive topic.”

Although most research shows polling and statistics about people’s basic opinions, there was no clear understanding of why people support or oppose the ACA.

The goal of the bike tour was to delve into what people’s concerns were and record their feelings.

Hollingsworth teaches about healthcare and healthcare policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He said knowing this kind of research can help him better present information to his classes.

Knowing what kind of preconceived notions students have coming in, whether for or against the ACA, will help him approach the topic in a better way for students.

In addition, research like the bike tour can help on a broader scale.

“Now that we have this information, let’s not ignore it,” Hollingsworth said. “We can develop better policies when we can better understand what people’s concerns are.”

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