For more than 50 years, Medicaid has played an essential role in our nation’s health care system, now providing health coverage for more than 74 million Americans, including one in three children, more than half of all births in some states, and nearly two-thirds of nursing home residents. Over the past several years, as Medicaid has become more comprehensive and more complex, policymakers at the federal and state levels have increasingly recognized the need to invest in human capital to support innovations in publicly financed care and to help state staff keep abreast of the changing health policy landscape. To fully address the complex needs of Medicaid beneficiaries, it has also become imperative for Medicaid staff to bridge agency silos and forge effective partnerships with colleagues from mental health, criminal justice, child welfare, and other social services agencies. No matter what the future may hold for Medicaid itself, it is likely that there will continue to be a large-scale program of publicly financed care for low-income people.

The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) developed the Medicaid Academies to provide policy and leadership training for senior Medicaid staff as well as colleagues across partnering state and county agencies. The Academies constitute a unique opportunity to build the leadership and change management capacity of state Medicaid staff and their key government partners. The curriculum addresses both policy and operational priorities, combining a state-specific emphasis with an exploration of best practices from across the country.

The Medicaid Academies build on the foundation of the Medicaid Leadership Institute, which was established by CHCS in 2009 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For nine years, it has provided critical health policy and leadership development training for the nation’s Medicaid directors. CHCS launched the first Medicaid Academy in California in 2013, and now directs five state Academies:

  • Connecticut Medicaid Academy, which launched in June 2019 through support from NESCSO, focuses on enhancing the utilization of continuous quality improvement efforts through comprehensive leadership training for staff across the Department of Social Services and from other agencies that frequently work on Medicaid-related policies.
  • DHCS Academy, originally made possible by the California Health Care Foundation, The SCAN Foundation, and Blue Shield of California Foundation, provides comprehensive training for managers and supervisors in California’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).
  • Louisiana Medicaid Academy, which launched in April 2019 through support from the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), prioritizes strategies to evolve the LDH into a learning organization that continually enhances its ability to innovate and improve, including training around Medicaid policy fundamentals, leadership development, and continuous quality improvement.
  • New Hampshire Health and Human Services Academy, made possible by the New England States Consortium Systems Organization (NESCSO), provides leadership and professional development training focused on helping state staff in adopting a value-based payment approach across the state program.
  • New Jersey Medicaid Academy, established in 2015 through support from The Nicholson Foundation, is a professional development and leadership training program for managers across New Jersey state and county agencies that administer Medicaid.
  • Rhode Island Medicaid Academy, established in 2018 through support from NESCSO, as part of the NESCSO State Health and Human Services Training and Leadership Development Initiative, provides comprehensive leadership training for selected managers across the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
  • Vermont Agency of Human Services Leadership Academy, which launched in December 2016 through support from NESCSO, focuses on fostering cross-agency partnerships and professional development to achieve the state’s Agency of One goals.

For each Academy, CHCS develops the curriculum, provides expert facilitation, and fosters cross-agency relationships with a focus on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of publicly financed care. The Academies typically enroll 25-30 competitively selected staff from Medicaid and other partnering agencies to participate in six- to nine-month cohorts of intensive, hands-on training. As part of the training sessions, participants develop leadership projects, individually and in teams, to apply newfound policy knowledge to address immediate state challenges.

Developing the skills necessary to adapt to a changing health care environment will be essential for state agency staff to be effective in their jobs as they evolve. Through these unique training opportunities, CHCS is providing hands-on policy and operational expertise and enabling new relationships to help state agency staff transform the quality and cost-effectiveness of care delivery for the states’ low-income beneficiaries.