Making the case: Public universities and Medicaid partnerships

November 04, 2019
Marc A. Thibodeau
Marc A Thibodeau, MSc, JD
Managing Director, Health Care Finance Solutions

Attending the 2019 Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC), I took note of this question from one attendee: “What is UMass Medical School doing at a conference designed for Medicaid administrators?”

The answer: sharing our model for Medicaid agency and public university partnerships as a way to provide administrative supports to states’ management of Medicaid programs. Public dollars are invested in public universities over time. This model has proven effective at delivering an enhanced return on that investment to state government.

Today, states are focused on the challenge of improving the health status of their most vulnerable populations while controlling related costs. Typically, the Medicaid budget represents the largest percent of a state’s spending and may be responsible for health care costs for one out of every six residents. In this challenging environment, policy makers and Medicaid administrators rely even more heavily on research-driven, evidence-based decision making—which speaks directly to the inherent strength and mission of state universities.

Public universities—and especially public medical schools—share Medicaid’s mission to serve the disadvantaged populations in their home communities. Medicaid agency and public university partnerships effectively repurpose the usefulness of the school’s considerable resources. This includes knowledge and expertise in research, program evaluation, clinical and policy guidelines, IT, data collection and analytics—resources that are difficult to marshal and retain at the agency level.

Furthermore, the practice of “insourcing,” where a state finds and contracts for necessary resources and capabilities within the public environment (rather than contracting with an outside consultant-vendor) tends to simplify the procurement process, where the state already has a relationship with its university system. And where a dollars-based consultant contract limits the creation of institutional knowledge, Medicaid agency and public university partnerships help build a shared body of knowledge, experience and best practices that reside with the state to improve services for the state’s most vulnerable populations over the long term.

At Commonwealth Medicine, the health care consulting and operations division of UMass Medical School, we have 20 years of experience with this model. In that period, we have actively encouraged other states to consider the benefits of Medicaid agency and public university partnerships. Based on the long-term success of our program, I encourage any Medicaid program administrator to explore the strengths and benefits of establishing a Medicaid agency and public university partnerships.