JAMA Forum: Reforming Medicaid


We are 2 former Administrators of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, under Presidents Barack Obama and George H. W. Bush. Although we represent different political parties, we take pride in the accomplishments of these 2 programs, which collectively help millions of US residents get the health care they need.

Medicaid has become a major focus in the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because the proposed replacement bills go beyond the ACA into the underlying Medicaid program that was originally passed by Congress in 1965. As we have overseen the Medicaid program at various stages, we are familiar with its successes, its areas for improvement, its effect on state budgets, and its importance to millions of ordinary people who count on the program and will need it in the future.

That is why we are calling for Congress to separate reforms to the Medicaid program from the most pressing task at hand—stabilizing and improving the nongroup market. Given the divergent views on appropriate Medicaid changes, we recommend initiating a 12-month bipartisan review process that focuses on long-term reforms to improve care and reduce costs. Such a process would benefit from broad stakeholder involvement and expert feedback, gathered outside of the heat of the current political environment. Changes to the individual market alone have a greater chance of receiving bipartisan support while substantive work on Medicaid is under way.