If you’ve been following children’s health policy lately, you have probably been hearing the term MACPAC bandied about. You might have thought, “What is MACPAC? Is this some new version of Pac-Man?” Those are excellent questions, which we will answer here.

First, the easy one – we love Pac-Man, but aside from his very healthy fruit diet, he has little to do with children’s health.

So secondly, what is MACPAC? It’s the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission created as part of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) in 2009. The authorizing language for MACPAC was added to the Social Security Act. The statute called for the creation of a non-partisan federal agency to conduct policy and data analysis relevant to Medicaid and CHIP, and make recommendations to Congress and the Secretary of Health and Human Services about the programs. Broadly, this means that MACPAC is a trusted source for in-depth analysis of Medicaid and CHIP issues and an apolitical voice in health policy debates.

MACPAC is made up of 17 commissioners; these commissioners serve three-year terms and bring an array of diverse backgrounds and experience to their work. The agency also has a full-time staff that supports its work.

MACPAC’s policy and data analysis takes the form of reports issued to Congress by March 15 and June 15 each year (the Commission may make additional reports). In its most recent report published earlier this month, the Commission made recommendations about the future of CHIP, supporting extension of the program. This recommendation represents an important affirmation of CHIP’s ongoing importance in the coverage landscape. Additionally, the June report includes recommendations about the role of Medicaid in paying for long-term services and supports and building Medicaid’s administrative capacity on the state and federal levels. You can read the full report, including MACPAC’s thoughts on the future of CHIP, here. For Pac-Man’s thoughts on the future of CHIP, you’ll have to ask him—watch out for the ghosts.