Louise Lamphere

University of New Mexico

Research Initiative:

Louise Lamphere, the University Regents Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, will complete an extensive ethnography of the way managed care organizations (MCOs) have affected the delivery of health care to low-income Medicaid families from different cultural and ethnic groups. Lamphere will not only organize and present collaborative material garnered from the study but will contribute her own research on clerical and semi-professional staff working for health care providers in New Mexico. As more complex procedures are imposed on workers because of the MCOs, health care staff – mostly Hispanic and mostly female – are spending more time on beauracratic tasks than on patient care. Lamphere examines the way workers, who often feel more closely allied with patients than with the MCOs, "buffer" patients from the difficulties of the new system, spending long periods on the phone dealing with eligibility issues or redoing rejected referral forms. Lamphere's ethnographic research suggests, however, that provider organizations are likely to have a hard time sustaining the current buffering role, which could lead to serious problems for Medicaid patients in the long run.


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