Social Work's Role in Medicaid Reform: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Objectives

To critically analyze social work's role in Medicaid reform.

Methods

We conducted semistructured interviews with 46 stakeholders from 10 US states that use a range of Medicaid reform approaches. We identified participants using snowball and purposive sampling. We gathered data in 2016 and analyzed them using qualitative methods.

Results

Multiple themes emerged: (1) social work participates in Medicaid reform through clinical practice, including care coordination and case management; (2) there is a gap between social work's practice-level and systems-level involvement in Medicaid innovations; (3) factors hindering social work's involvement in systems-level practice include lack of visibility, insufficient clarity on social work's role and impact, and too few resources within professional organizations; and (4) social workers need more training in health transformation payment models and policy.

Conclusions

Social workers have unique skills that are valuable to building health systems that promote population health and reduce health inequities. Although there is considerable opportunity for social work to increase its role in Medicaid reform, there is little social work involvement at the systems level.

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