Our story

Scroll through more than 25 years of change that matters.

Smart Policy Works was founded in 1992 – during the era of welfare reform – with the sole purpose of improving access to public benefits programs and preserving the integrity of the Social Security Disability Income programs. Our work has grown exponentially since then, but we work today toward the same purpose: to break down economic, social, and structural barriers to health and well-being.


Supportive Housing Strategy

young adult with autism and his aging parent smilingA mixed use housing and medical destination for people with intellectual disabilities and seniors

Because housing and services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities is underfunded and scarce, family members may end up never relinquishing their caregiver roles, even as they age into needing services themselves. Aging parents may remain in housing that no longer fits their needs or provides the safety they require. Because this is also often the case for seniors generally who remain the community, a suburban-Chicago building developer saw a potential market demand for housing that would accommodate all three populations. Smart Policy Works served as a disability policy and services consultant on this project. Continue reading “Supportive Housing Strategy”


Visualizing Health Care Reform

This interactive data map showed who would be eligible for health coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act was the most sweeping reform of the U.S. healthcare system since Medicare, potentially opening a path to care for millions of Americans. How many of them were in Illinois? Who would be eligible for affordable, guaranteed health coverage in 2014, where did these people live, and how would they access coverage? Policymakers, providers, and citizens wanted to know. We created this data-mapping project at Illinois Health Matters to illustrate the potential impact of the ACA on uninsured Illinoisans.

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Neighborhood Stories

Henry Edwards, a boxer who has chronic asthma, was uninsured until the birth of his son qualified him for public aid.Now the Affordable Care Act was law, but what would the coming changes mean to real people? Partnering with the Local Reporting Initiative, Illinois Health Matters created content about how healthcare reform is impacting underserved communities on the South and West sides of Chicago. These stories brought together reporting, photography, and video to present accessible, personal stories of people who had long gone without health insurance, or wished they could afford it for their employees. Continue reading “Neighborhood Stories”


Illinois Health Matters

Illinois Health Matters was a project created to pave the way for ACA implementation in Illinois.

Once the Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010, the State of Illinois started implementing the changes required to provide affordable and quality care for all Illinois residents. Some changes came quickly, such as the “Patient’s Bill of Rights,” which put an end to some of the most extreme insurance abuses. But most were phased in over several years, during which there was an unmet need for information on all aspects of how the process would operate. Illinois Health Matters filled that need, serving to pave the way to the state’s Get Covered Illinois marketplace.

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Our Family Security

Carol's disabled brother Robert has been living with her and her family for 23 years since their parents passed away.

Challenges to Social Security had been intensifying, and reached the stage where Congress was considering proposed cutbacks projected to total 25% of program funding. It was clear that many regarded the program as a burden for American taxpayers. We created this website to show that Social Security is not a costly program for “other people” but rather a vital resource in maintaining the economic well-being of ordinary American families.

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