Highlights from the 2019 National Association of Medicaid Directors Conference

Held in Washington, DC, this year’s National Association of Medicaid Directors Annual Conference was attended by more than 1,200 individuals, including state Medicaid agency staff, Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, advocates and vendors, as well as the 56 state and territorial Medicaid directors from across the country. The conference is an important forum for discussing current and emerging trends in Medicaid. UnitedHealthcare Community & State regularly attends and helps support this event because of the importance of the partnerships with our state Medicaid agencies.

The conference opened with keynote speaker Seema Verma, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Administrator Verma touched on a number of current areas of importance for the Medicaid system including consumer engagement, value-based purchasing, social determinants of health, and the aging of the population. Many of her comments focused on balancing state flexibility and autonomy with the need for accountability to improve outcomes and results for the Medicaid population. She closed her speech with an announcement of the release of a new proposed rule on fiscal integrity focused on state supplemental payments and Medicaid financing arrangements. To close out the conference, Calder Lynch, Acting Deputy Administrator and Acting Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at CMS, spoke about the vision provided additional details about this proposed rule in his remarks at the closing plenary.

In addition to these speakers, the conference included many breakout sessions that highlighted state Medicaid leadership and innovation in action. Topics ranged from social determinants of health and housing to value-based purchasing and better serving the intellectual and developmentally disabled population. Each informative session included at least one or two examples of how individual state Medicaid agencies are addressing these important issues. As a result, attendees had the opportunity to learn a lot about how states are innovating to serve their Medicaid population. I feel like these discussions highlighted how unique each Medicaid program is, and yet how there are still many areas of commonality when it comes to the needs of the Medicaid members we all serve.

If there was one overarching theme from the conference that I took away, it was the importance of partnerships and collaboration. In some instances, the word “partnership” was used explicitly in the title of the breakout session and the speakers focused on examples of relationships and collaborations in their state Medicaid systems. In others, it was a noted critical component raised organically by speakers in how they were trying to, and in some instances successfully, addressing whatever topic was the focus of the session (transportation, maternal health, opioids, etc.). It was well acknowledged that it takes partnerships between federal and state governments, health plans, providers, community-based organizations, and consumers to ensure the successful outcomes we all want to see in the Medicaid system. At UnitedHealthcare, we believe that partnerships are critical to changing how health care is delivered and we are regularly collaborate with community-based organizations to ensure our members receive the care they need.  

Medicaid is critically important to more than 70 million Americans. Low-income individuals and families rely on the various systems, sectors, and people who were part of the National Association of Medicaid Directors conference this month for their health care. I am hopeful that the conversations started at this event will continue and that the partnerships needed to provide Medicaid members with the care they need develop from them. 

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