In today’s challenging economy, Medicaid represents one of the biggest opportunities for reforming the quality and cost effectiveness of health care services, especially for populations with high costs and complex needs; the nation cannot afford not to.

Building a Medicaid Rapid-Learning Network: A Key Investment for Medicaid’s Future, co-authored by CHCS and the Health Insurance Reform Project at George Washington University, discusses the role of advanced research, interventions, and evaluations in expanding the evidence base for appropriate care of complex Medicaid populations. A preview copy of this report was released in early January 2009 at the National Association of State Medicaid Directors (NASMD) Multi-State Collaborative “21st Century Medicaid: Transforming through Health Information Technology” meeting.

The report recommends an immediate investment in a Medicaid Rapid-Learning Network to serve as a “learning laboratory” for developing new knowledge and best practices for Medicaid nationally. It would target high-opportunity populations and would build the evidence base through applied research (data-mining, mathematical modeling, observational analysis), demonstrations, and rapid dissemination and adoption of best practices. A successful Medicaid Rapid-Learning Network would improve value in Medicaid through higher quality and reduced cost growth. Ultimately, this national Medicaid learning laboratory would have spillover benefits for the rest of the nation’s health care system through the adoption of best practices for high-opportunity populations in other public and commercial health care programs.