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Understanding and Connecting with Audiences Impacted by Medicaid Unwinding

The COVID-19 pandemic forced changes in the ways that people live, work, and interact. Nowhere was that more true than at the government level, where federal policies were put into place to not only continue services to constituents during a time of crisis but also help alleviate the stress that came with work closures and other events. Early in the pandemic, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provided guidelines for federal Medicaid funding. In order to receive funding, Medicaid programs were required to keep people continuously enrolled through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

As a result of this provision, Medicaid enrollment has grown substantially compared to before the pandemic and the uninsured rate has dropped. However, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, signed into law on December 29, 2022, Congress has set an end date of March 31, 2023 for the continuous enrollment provision, with enhanced federal Medicaid matching funds winding down through December 2023. States can resume disenrolling members beginning in April but must meet certain reporting and other requirements during the unwinding process.

The Challenge for States

The impact of Medicaid Unwinding will be felt by millions of Americans who have come rely on this extension of coverage. Governments are faced with having to increase awareness of these changes, while identifying and renewing eligible constituents to Medicaid benefits.

“We’re seeing from (governments) increased urgency,” said Angy Peterson, Vice-President of the Granicus Experience Group. “They just seem to be hitting this sense that there’s a big surge of demand coming their way and they’re trying to understand how best to mitigate that and how best to manage through all of that.”

Peterson spoke on a panel of digital thought leaders during a recent webinar, “Expert Strategies to Leverage Technology & Data for Medicaid Unwinding,” presented by Granicus. As a company that has been a leading force in of government transformation and enrollment on both the state and federal level, Granicus is working to provide states with insight and support during the Medicaid Unwinding process.

“From our perspective, we really see this as an information sharing and engagement effort at quite a large scale over a long period of time,” said Peterson. “There’s a lot of high level and even very specific guidance coming from the federal government, but there’s really a need for very specific hands-on tools to really think through the technology that’s available and how these states might be efficient in such a large-scale effort.”

Understanding The Medicaid Audience

The unique communication and engagement challenges that Medicaid brings, especially to low-income and low-technology audiences, highlighted the importance of using data to develop Medicaid Unwinding awareness strategies.

“It is not just your agency having challenges reaching folks,” said Perla Ni, CEO of CommunityConnect Labs. “These are hard to reach folks. We’ve talked to many agencies getting a 25% non-deliverability rate on mailings because low-income households have moved in the last three years.”

Because of that frequent transience, Ni stressed that getting updated contact information for enrollees be a priority for agencies. Another important element of building those connections comes in personalizing messages, even if delivering those messages through automated channels.

“Since this is an information-driven effort,” said Peterson, “it really comes down to having a strategic approach to communications and using those communications in a smart way to break down a lot of the barriers government might experience in connecting with people and getting them redetermined or re-enrolled in the right healthcare plans for them.”

Targeted Communications for Low-Technology Audiences

One area where communications can have an impact, even in low-technology audiences, is in SMS messaging. The reliance and daily use of cell phones provides a personal touchpoint where messaging can reach audiences at a place where awareness can be increased, and actions can be potentially taken immediately.

“We found that, over time, if you deliver broad general messaging it does have some impact,” said Peterson. “But if you can get to something where you’re much more aligned to either how their eligibility will change based on their family size, based on where they live, or any number of those different kinds of indicators that you can have about various people, that very specific message is relevant to those different needs and use cases. People are 38% more likely to take a desired action online, whether that’s starting an account or comparing the different plans available to them or enrolling all the way through the process. That personalized messaging really does help to move people through those complex processes.”

The proper cadence of targeted messaging, however, is equally important in making sure that reminders intended for awareness and action don’t become nuisances that are easily ignored. Much like the frequent reminders a patient might receive from a pharmacy regarding their prescription, Ni said that it is common to send three follow up messages before a targeted audience will consider completing an action.

Acknowledging and Addressing Barriers

“So just to realize that it’s not only hard to reach some of the Medicaid audience, but also the frequency that we reach out to them,” said Ni. “They may not have a computer; they may not have an electronic calendar that they’re keeping all their information in. So, helping them remind them about the deadlines for renewal is really going to be vital.”

Being able to understand the different barriers facing communicators reaching Medicaid enrollees and educating them on the changes that Medicaid Unwinding will bring is not only important to the individuals who will be impacted by program changes, but also to the agencies that administer service.

“Being able to anticipate those different emotional and other barriers,” said Peterson, “and being able to really tailor communications that’s empathetic to those different barriers, I think, is a tool that we really try to partner with our customers on to help them better leverage communications channels. That way they can really have that personalized and human touch that ultimately builds that relationship with the people that they’re trying to serve.”

Learn more about the ways that agencies can leverage data and apply it to Medicaid Unwinding awareness plans. Talk to our team.