COVID-19 has exposed long-held disparities in the U.S. health care system, igniting renewed momentum in states across the country to eliminate inequities in health outcomes. Medicaid is the source of health care coverage for more than 75 million people in the U.S., including many in Black, Latino, and other racially and ethnically diverse communities, and has a key role to play in advancing health equity nationally.

Over the last 25 years, the Medicaid program — at the federal level and in states across the nation — has evolved significantly. Today Medicaid includes an increasingly sophisticated array of tools and approaches to provide more effective, efficient and equitable care. Yet, it is clear that more intentional strategies are needed to reduce the pervasive disparities that have resulted from a long history of structural racism both within and beyond the health care sector. How can Medicaid best leverage the innovations that have evolved over the last quarter century to ensure the program can meet today’s challenge of putting an end to health inequities?

This Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) 25th anniversary panel discussion examined how systemic racism plays out in our nation’s health care system and explored crucial opportunities for Medicaid to take a more proactive role to identify, address, and reduce health disparities and contribute to broader societal efforts to address racism. Experts and leaders representing federal, state, and provider perspectives shared their insights on how Medicaid can use its policy and program levers to address the social drivers of health and improve the long-term prospects for healthier communities.

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I. Welcome and Introduction

Speaker: Allison Hamblin, MSPH, President and CEO, CHCS

A. Hamblin welcomed and introduce participants, shared brief background on CHCS’ 25-year history, and set the stage for the ensuing discussion.

II. Moving the Needle on Health Equity: Medicaid and Cross-Sector Partnership Opportunities

Moderator: Estelle Richman, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, former Chief Operating Officer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and CHCS Board Chair

E. Richman moderated a panel of national thought leaders who shared insights on how Medicaid can maximize its potential to address deep-rooted health disparities and make meaningful improvements in the health and well-being of the millions of adults and children served by the program.


  • Toyin Ajayi, MD, Chief Health Officer and co-founder, CityBlock Health
  • Marsha Lillie-Blanton, DrPH, Associate Research Professor, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health; former Chief Quality Officer and Director of the Division of Quality and Health Outcomes, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Maureen M. Corcoran, Director, Ohio Department of Medicaid