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Academic Health Centers and Medicaid: Advance or Retreat?

  • Author(s): Henderson, Mark C
  • Kizer, Kenneth W
  • Kravitz, Richard L
  • et al.

The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has strained the capacity of many academic health centers (AHCs) to deliver primary and specialty care to this traditionally underserved population. The authors, longtime faculty members in the University of California, Davis Health (UCDH) system, discuss the challenges of UCDH's participation in Medi-Cal, the nation's largest Medicaid program, and their institution's controversial decision in 2015 to withdraw from its last Medi-Cal primary care contract, which has had untoward effects on UCDH's social and educational missions. The authors call on AHCs to leverage their considerable intellectual and human capital as well as their focus on education and research to aggressively pursue innovative models of high-value primary care for underserved populations in their local communities, highlighting several recent successful examples of such programs. The UCDH experience has implications for other AHCs grappling with the financial realities of an increasingly competitive, value-based health care marketplace and the inherent difficulty in balancing educational, research, patient care, and social or community service missions.

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