In 2020, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) awarded COVID-19 enhancements to AcademyHealth’s Evidence-Informed State Health Policy Institute’s (ESHPI) two state-facing learning networks, the Medicaid Medical Directors Network (MMDN) and the State-University Partnership Learning Network (SUPLN), to explore how Medicaid stakeholders can examine the pandemic’s impact on beneficiaries and the program.

These enhancements aimed to leverage partnerships with policymakers, researchers, and other Medicaid stakeholders to identify COVID-19-related health policy priorities and develop the necessary research agenda to guide state-driven impact analyses. With PCORI’s COVID-19 enhancement, the MMDN considered and prioritized Medicaid four policy priorities that have surfaced from this crisis including, but not limited to, behavioral health/substance use disorder (SUD), long-term care (LTC)/home and community-based services (HCBS), preventive services, and telehealth. SUPLN state-university researchers provided vital guidance on the specific research questions and analyses their state Medicaid partners, including the Medical Director, should evaluate to address their immediate COVID-19-related policy actions and next-stage priorities as the pandemic evolves.

Margaret Koller, the Executive Director for Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy said

“this supplemental funding from PCORI is critical to exploring some of the most pressing policy issues confronting Medicaid. As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic placed significant a burden on Medicaid programs around the country, however, we also witnessed extraordinary innovation, collaboration, and shared learning during this crisis. Now, as the pandemic evolves and with the support of PCORI, AcademyHealth can move forward advancing a targeted Medicaid research agenda which is rooted in broad stakeholder engagement and aimed at addressing the impact of COVID-19.”

This final ESHPI research agenda provides input and guidance from both the MMDN and SUPLN on those four policy topics and their respective feasible research questions. We believe additional patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) is needed to inform Medicaid policy development in these specific areas, especially preventive services and telehealth. As states and researchers look to understand COVID-19 and its impact across several Medicaid subpopulations, this COVID-19-related research agenda can be an opportunity for PCORI and researchers to curate additional Medicaid PCOR studies that can produce implementable strategies to improve the health of beneficiaries.

In addition to these immediate COVID-19 PCOR research questions, AcademyHealth received a new PCORI engagement award on developing Long COVID research questions. We hope to share that research agenda in 2022 as states study the effects long COVID has on Medicaid enrollment, utilization trends and chronic care management.

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