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Will the Evaluation of the ACA Be Health Services Research’s Finest Hour?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides an unprecedented opportunity to expand insurance coverage and to reform the health care delivery system in the United States. The political debate about its merits and shortcomings has been highly partisan and unrelenting and not particularly evidence-based. With the most significant portion of the health insurance coverage expansion scheduled to begin on January 1, 2014, we can expect more of the same for some time to come. Ultimately, the best way to trump the inevitable unsubstantiated rhetoric is through evidence acquired through the performance of rigorous and objective scientific studies.

The investigators who focus on questions related to the performance of the health care system are health services researchers. The origins of health services research as a scientific field of inquiry dates back to the 1960s, when several key academic leaders from a small number of institutions developed conceptual approaches to studying important questions about access, cost, and quality of care.

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