MPH in Policy student Stevland Sonnier co-authors research examining telehealth fraud

Published on April 29, 2021

Portrait of Steve Sonnier
Stevland Sonnier

Stevland Sonnier, an MPH in Policy student, co-authored an issue brief on telehealth expansion and the potential for fraud that helped inform testimony at a recent Ways and Means Committee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The brief, prepared by Sonnier and health policy researchers from Index Analytics and the American Institutes for Research, reviewed concerns that increased use of telehealth is likely to increase fraud and abuse. The research provided background for the April 28, 2021, Health Subcommittee hearing titled “Charting the Path Forward for Telehealth.”

Sonnier’s work on the brief stemmed from his internship with IMPAQ, a global policy research and analytics firm.

“I have had the opportunity to complete an internship at IMPAQ International for the past year where I worked with several University of Iowa alumni, including Dr. Adaeze Enekwechi and Mark Koepke, MA, JD – both of whom were instrumental in helping me deepen my appreciation for health policy,” says Sonnier. “During my time there, I focused on translating my educational experiences I’ve gained in my policy classes with Dr. Brian Kaskie into several issue briefs and initiatives for the organization.”

“This specific brief arose when there were concerns evolving about telefraud, where telemarketers have fraudulently billed for durable medical equipment and other services, and how they could be misconstrued for telehealth fraud, where one thinks of the video teleconferencing or audio-only connections we’ve seen grow during the pandemic,” Sonnier continues. “We’ve seen little evidence of this happening so far.”

Sonnier says the internship helped him put his education into practice.

“This experience directly built on my knowledge from my Medicare and Medicaid class taught by Dr. Kaskie, which gave me the skill set to analyze actions conducted by the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General and synthesize findings from other legal and [information] sources,” Sonnier says. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute such important research and work alongside my colleagues, Dr. Yael Harris and Jason Goldwater, who have likewise been tremendous supports as I explore the health policy field further.”