Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Medicaid serves as the nation’s public health insurance program for low-income individuals, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. As such, Medicaid plays a central role in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve their highest level of health possible. Key to achieving this goal is the capacity of Medicaid program leaders to leverage 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 uniquely influential role Medicaid leaders play, few opportunities exist to support the leadership development of state Medicaid directors and their senior leadership teams. The Medicaid Leadership Institute (MLI) a program established by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), is uniquely positioned to support Medicaid directors in cultivating the necessary leadership skills to successfully lead their Medicaid programs and impact key health outcomes. With Robert Wood Johnson Foundation support, 53 competitively selected state Medicaid directors and their senior leadership teams from states across the political spectrum have participated in MLI since 2009.

MLI offers an intensive 12-month leadership development program for up to six competitively selected Medicaid directors (“Fellows”) and selected members of their senior staff. It is designed to cultivate the skills needed to lead Medicaid programs as national models of high-quality, cost-effective care. The program includes four core components:

  • A competency-based leadership model: Fellows and their senior managers will receive expert training that follows a competency-based leadership framework designed for Medicaid leaders. This year’s program will offer a particular focus on leading during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Individualized leadership coaching for Fellows and selected senior staff: Each Fellow will be assigned a leadership coach who will be available throughout the Fellowship period. Coaching will help the Fellows and team members translate the leadership competencies into their daily practice.
  • Innovations in national health and social services policy and delivery in a pandemic context: Recognizing that the many effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will persist over the coming year, there will be an increased focus on policy considerations related to COVID-19 and the health equity implications for the Medicaid population.
  • Communications training: Given the important role of Medicaid directors in advocating for their programs and telling the story of the impact they have on individuals and the health of communities, Fellows will receive training in developing strategic communications for stakeholders.

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 for the 2021 MLI class.

To learn more and apply, download the Request for Applications. Applications are due July 17, 2020, 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.