Medicaid at 50: A Look Back – And Ahead

Medicaid, the main health insurance program for low-income people and the single largest source of public coverage in the U.S., turns 50 this year. In that time, it has grown to cover nearly 70 million Americans and become a key source of financing for safety net hospitals and health centers, as well as the main source of coverage and financing of long-term care. The program continues to be a focus of policy debate and partisan differences.

On May 6, the Kaiser Family Foundation held a public event in its Washington, D.C. offices to reflect on the lessons of the first 50 years of Medicaid and to consider what is ahead for the program and the people it serves. A new report on Medicaid at 50 from the Foundation’s Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KCMU) was released.

Diane Rowland, Executive Vice President of the Foundation and Executive Director of the KCMU, provided opening remarks and lead the event, which also featured Barbara Lyons, Senior Vice President of the Foundation and Director of the KCMU.

One panel discussion, on Medicaid’s role for people across the nation, traced Medicaid’s evolution and examined the program’s impact on the uninsured and on racial disparities in health coverage and care, as well as its role as a source of coverage for low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities. A second panel looked at Medicaid’s role in the health care system, with a focus on Medicaid’s coverage of health and long-term services and supports.  Both panels addressed the program’s role today and key policy debates, opportunities and challenges ahead.

Participants included:

  • Thomas Betlach, President, National Association of Medicaid Directors and Director, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System
  • Sheila Burke, Faculty Research Fellow, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and Adjunct Lecturer, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Fred Cerise, CEO, Parkland Health and Hospital System
  • Sylvia Drew Ivie, Mental Health Deputy, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
  • Charlene Frizzera, Senior Advisor, Leavitt Partners
  • Cindy Mann,  Former Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; now a Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP
  • Julia Paradise, Associate Director of the Foundation’s Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured
  • Trish Riley, Executive Director, National Academy of State Health Policy
  • Robin Rudowitz, Associate Director of the Foundation’s Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured
  • Elizabeth Taylor, Executive Director, National Health Law Program
  • Alan Weil, Editor-in-Chief, Health Affairs


Chris Lee | (202) 347-5270 |

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