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Archived: Federal and State Health Policy

This program is now archived.

Program Goals

The Commonwealth Fund’s Program on Federal and State Health Policy is designed to strengthen the link between the work of the foundation, including the Commission on a High Performance Health System, and policy processes at the federal and state levels. As a key component of the Fund’s efforts around health reform, the program focuses on the identification, development, evaluation, and spread of policies that expand access to affordable, high-quality, and efficient care—particularly for vulnerable populations—while reducing health spending growth. Specific activities include:

  • convening federal and state policymakers, in both the executive and legislative branches of government, to discuss key health policy issues and to help identify policy solutions
  • facilitating information exchange between federal and state policymakers, both to inform federal leaders of innovations in state health policy that have implications for national health reform implementation and to raise awareness among state leaders about federal policies that will affect state health reform strategies
  • producing written materials on timely issues relevant to federal and state policymakers and their staff, with particular emphasis on implementation of the Affordable Care Act
  • fostering dialogue among policymakers, national stakeholders, and the research community on key health policy issues.

Recent Projects

Bipartisan Congressional Health Policy Conference
Each year, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are invited to meet in an informal, off-the-record setting with leading health policy experts and health care practitioners from a variety of backgrounds. The Bipartisan Congressional Health Policy Conference gives members of Congress the opportunity to learn about timely health policy issues and engage in substantive discussion, all in an environment free from partisan politics and media pressure. In addition to providing an opportunity to reach one of The Commonwealth Fund’s most influential audiences, the meeting also fosters working relationships with members who can advance the Fund’s mission to achieve a high performance health system. Seventy-nine House and Senate members have attended the retreats since 1998, with strong bipartisan representation.

Bipartisan Congressional Staff Retreat
At this annual conference, invited senior congressional staff and senior staff from congressional support agencies meet in an informal setting with leading academics and health care practitioners to learn about pertinent health policy issues, engage in open and off-the-record debate, and discover opportunities for bipartisan collaboration.

Health Reform Briefings and Roundtables
The health policy briefings and roundtables conducted jointly by the Alliance for Health Reform and The Commonwealth Fund are a valuable resource for congressional and agency staff, representatives of national organizations, the media, and other key stakeholders looking to stay abreast of the latest developments in health care policy. The briefings, held on Capitol Hill and open to the public, focus on timely health policy topics under discussion at the federal and state levels.

Medicaid as a Lever for Health System Reform
Passage of the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicaid’s position as both a platform for expanding insurance coverage and for initiating health care payment and delivery reforms. As state Medicaid agencies pursue initiatives in this area, Commonwealth Fund support to the National Association of Medicaid Directors is providing opportunities for agency heads to learn from one another and become familiar with a broad range of policy options. The project also facilitates dialogue between state and federal officials on key reform implementation activities.

Educating and Informing State Policymakers
State officials and legislators play a central role in implementing the Affordable Care Act, from passing laws that shape the health insurance exchanges to making health care budgeting decisions. To fulfill that role, state policymakers need tools and resources to understand the options available. Through a partnership with the Progressive States Network and the National Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform, The Commonwealth Fund supports a series of meetings for state legislators that also involves policy experts and federal officials. The meetings have focused on using Medicaid as a lever for payment and delivery system reform, cost-containment options, and state Medicaid programs’ interaction with health insurance exchanges.

Future Directions

In the coming year, the Program on Federal and State Health Policy will continue to examine the intersection of federal and state health policy in implementation of the Affordable Care Act and in efforts to improve health care delivery in the United States. Program staff will furnish guidance and technical assistance to federal and state policymakers and to congressional and administrative staff working on the law’s implementation and other delivery and payment system reforms. Program staff will also inform policymakers of recent Commonwealth Fund research and analysis, policy recommendations from the Fund’s Commission on a High Performance Health System, and innovative policies and programs around the country.