Emerging Trends: Five focus areas that will impact the public health care system

As our nation slowly begins to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we face a year unlike any other. With more people than ever before enrolled in Medicaid, and a strained care delivery system, managed care faces new challenges and opportunities.

Once the public health emergency is lifted, enrollment is expected to return to pre-pandemic numbers — but states will continue to grapple with budget pressures as they work through the unanticipated emergency spending and revenue shortfalls that resulted from the pandemic.

Every year, our policy experts produce an Emerging Trends Report that tracks new developments, reforms and policies related to public programs and health care. The trends we’ve been tracking, outlined in this 2021 Emerging Trends in Public Programs report, will help leaders and partners prepare for what comes next as we move beyond the pandemic.

Five trends impacting Medicaid and public health

The report explores the following five trends:

Trend 1: Alternative Payment Models and Value-Based Purchasing

Trend 2: Telehealth

Trend 3: Medicaid Expansion

Trend 4: Addressing the Social Drivers of Health

Trend 5: Health Disparities and Inequities

As states shift how they deliver care through their Medicaid programs, many are looking for ways to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness through an increased focus on:

  • Reforming health care delivery, including changing how care is paid for and delivered by leveraging technology that connects providers and members.
  • Serving the whole person with an eye toward health equity to increase access and care coverage.

Managed care plays a critical role in bringing these priorities to life. The intersection of public health and health care has sparked a refreshed focus on how care quality is defined and measured within the Medicaid program. Data capabilities and insights will be instrumental in creating new strategies and improving access to care — especially as we adapt to serve a growing, aging population.

Implications of COVID-19

The COVID-19 public health emergency had short-term implications that will likely result in long-term shifts in care delivery within Medicaid. We cover the impacts of these changes in a special addendum to the emerging trends report. While these trends are not the only impacts brought on by COVID-19, they are trends that may fundamentally shift the system. Highlights of the special addendum include the influence of state budget pressures, potential long-term changes, and opportunities for partnerships in Medicaid to help better support the individuals and communities we collectively serve. 

As our work continues to evolve in light of these trends, we are committed to helping state and federal partners innovate to strengthen and enhance the public safety net.

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