Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for children, adults, and seniors with low incomes as well as individuals with disabilities. The program plays a central role in ensuring that all people in the U.S. — including historically marginalized populations — can attain their highest level of health possible. Key to achieving this goal is Medicaid program leaders’ capacity to use the policy, financing, and operational tools available to them while balancing federal and state priorities around fiscal stewardship, quality assurance, and program integrity.

Despite the influential role Medicaid leaders play, few opportunities exist to support the leadership development of state Medicaid directors and their senior teams. The Medicaid Leadership Institute (MLI), established by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), is uniquely positioned to support Medicaid directors in cultivating the necessary skills to successfully lead their programs and impact key health outcomes. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 59 state Medicaid directors and their senior teams from states across the political spectrum have participated in MLI since 2009.

MLI offers an intensive 10-month leadership development program for competitively selected Medicaid directors (“Fellows”). It is designed to support selected Fellows in developing the skills needed to improve Medicaid programs, impact health outcomes, and advance health equity. The program includes four core components:

  • A competency-based leadership model: Fellows and their senior managers receive training that follows a competency-based leadership framework designed for Medicaid leaders. This year, MLI is focusing on leading during significant transitions, specifically as COVID-19 pandemic response efforts shift to a longer-term strategy.
  • Individualized leadership coaching for Fellows and select senior staff: Each Fellow is assigned a leadership coach for themselves and three members of their senior team. Coaching is designed to help the Fellows and team members translate learned competencies into their daily practice.
  • Exploration of health equity: MLI Fellows interact with leading health equity experts, gain exposure to emerging evidence and best practices, and explore current and potential approaches to better meet the health and social needs of Medicaid enrollees.
  • Communications training: Given the role of Medicaid directors in conveying the impact their programs have on the health of people and communities, Fellows receive training in developing strategic communications for internal and external stakeholders with a focus on effectively telling the story of Medicaid’s value.

How to Apply

Medicaid directors in all states, commonwealths, and territories are eligible to apply. Priority will be given to applicants who have been in their positions at least nine months. Up to six Medicaid directors will be selected.

To learn more and apply, download the Request for Applications. Applications are due July 8, 2021, 5 pm ET.


MLI is part of CHCS’ leadership and capacity building programs, a unique series of professional development programs that support state Medicaid directors and their management teams in optimizing the performance of publicly financed care.