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The Medicaid Project

The Medicaid Project is a curriculum created, refined, and taught by local and national experts from all sectors. The curriculum is offered as a university class each fall. Check back soon for educational content available outside the university. 

The Medicaid Project is funded by health plans that offer coverage through the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid agency:


Background: Gaps in Health Policy Education

Medicaid provides health insurance to low-income Americans, covering about 20% of the population. It is a particularly complex policy area because, unlike Medicare, it is not a single federal program. Instead, Medicaid is a federal-state partnership. Under this structure, the federal government has its own agency called the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that oversees state Medicaid programs and sets general requirements, but each state also has its own Medicaid agency. There is considerable variation between states even in the programs’ basic structure.

The idea for this project originated from conversations with a variety of Medicaid leaders who emphasize a lack of proficiency among policymakers and employees, some of whom make key decisions impacting the system.

So we identified educational gaps and formed an advisory board. We included people from several sectors on the board to incorporate a variety of perspectives and opinions.

We conducted an open course survey of healthcare systems and health policy courses at US universities.

What we found: There are very few full courses specific to Medicaid. Existing program-based courses are short and narrowly focused.

Why does this matter? As the largest source of U.S. healthcare coverage, Medicaid is fundamental to the work of professionals in a variety of fields that interface with Medicaid programs - for example future healthcare workers, policymakers, and employees of Medicaid agencies and health plans. Students can even build an entire career working solely in Medicaid.

The Class

PHP 440/540 Medicaid: Policy, Politics, and Practicalities of Access to Healthcare focuses on policy. Most class sessions are taught by local and national leaders in a specific sub-topic. Curriculum design was guided by the advisory board. 

So far, the class includes discussion sessions and presentations from 17 experts in specific topics and subfields, such as: 

  • Integrating social determinants of health into healthcare
  • The COVID-19 pandemic
  • The Affordable Care Act
  • Mental health and substance use disorders
  • Politics
  • Community health workers
  • Policy
  • Tribal health
  • Laws and regulations
  • Careers in Medicaid
  • On-the ground experiences

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