SOPA Images / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
West Virginia will use the U.S. Postal Service and an online account this summer to communicate with Medicaid enrollees about the expected impact of the COVID-19 health crisis, which will leave recipients the risk of losing their cover.
What West Virginia doesn’t do is use a form of communication everywhere: email.
“West Virginia is not set up to enroll its members,” Allison Adler, the state Medicaid spokeswoman, wrote to KHN in an email.
In fact, most state Medicaid programs don’t hit enrollees as quickly as they can about changing their coverage. A Kaiser Family Foundation report published in March found that 11 states said they would use email to alert Medicaid recipients about the impact of the COVID health crisis. In addition, 33 states plan to use snail mail and about 20 will go with mobile phones or not.
“I don’t care when most people talk today,” said Kinda Serafi, a partner with consulting group Manatt Health.
State Medicaid agencies have been preparing for months for the end of the health crisis. As a COVID assistance law passed in March 2020, Congress has prohibited states from removing anyone from Medicaid coverage unless they move out of the state during a health crisis. Once the crisis is over, state Medicaid officials will need to re -evaluate the eligibility of each enrollee. Millions of people could lose their coverage if they had too much or did not provide the information needed to prove their income or livelihood.
By November 2021, about 86 million people will be enrolled in Medicaid, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It rose to 71 million in February 2020, before COVID began to wipe out the nation.
West Virginia has more than 600,000 Medicaid enrollees. Adler said about 100,000 of them will lose their rights as a result of a health crisis because the state has decided they are ineligible or have not responded to requests to increase their awareness. make up.
“Email is a frustrating way to meet people in their area and this is no longer seen by the states,” said Jennifer Wagner, director of Medicaid eligibility and enrollment for at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington-based. research team.
The problem with relying on the Post Office is that a message can be hidden in “junk” mail or can reach people who have moved or are homeless, Serafi said. And email, if people have an account, can eliminate spam files, he said.
In comparison, research shows low -income Americans are as likely to have cell phones and cell phones as the general population. And a lot of people still use email.
In Michigan, Medicaid officials began using email to communicate with enrollees in 2020 after building a system with the help of federal COVID funding. They said email was a valuable way for subscribers to reach out.
“Paying us 2 cents for each email is very simple,” said Steph White, a registrar for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s a very good return on money.”
CMS officials told states they would consider email, as well as other forms of communication, when trying to reach enrollment in the event of a health crisis. But the states did not have the technology or the knowledge to register registrars.
Attempting to link to email is illegal, with federal law prohibiting email from being sent to people without their consent. The Federal Communications Commission has decided that by 2021 state agencies will be exempt from the law, but if it is not clear which counties are serving Medicaid services for some states and Medicaid care organizations are operating before 40 states are unknown, said Matt Salo. executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.
CMS spokeswoman Beth Lynk said the agency is trying to figure out how Medicaid agencies, counties and health plans can enroll enrollees within the limits of federal law. .
Some states have told KHN that Medicaid health plans help connect with registrants and they hope the plans use email. However, the requirement to obtain the consent of the registrars prior to registration can be limited.
That’s the situation in Virginia, where only about 30,000 Medicaid enrollees – out of a million – have agreed to receive emails from the state, Christina Nuckols said.
In an attempt to increase that number, the state plans to ask registrants if they want to stop receiving emails, rather than asking them to vote, he said. This way, subscribers will notify the state if they do not wish to be emailed. The state is looking at its legislative options to implement, he said.
Now, Nuckols added, the state intends Medicaid health plans to engage registrants in terms of increasing their coverage. Four of Virginia’s six Medicaid plans, which serve the majority of the state’s enrollment, are allowed to enroll about 316,000, he said.
Craig Kennedy, CEO of Medicaid Health Plans of America, a commercial company, said most plans use email, and Medicaid officials use many plans to connect with those. register. “I didn’t see this as a disaster. He wasn’t emailing information about re -signings,” she said. “I know we’ll help with that.”
California officials in March instructed Medicaid health plans to use a variety of communication methods, including email, to ensure members can keep coverage if they continue. Officials told health planners they could apply for permission through an initial text.
California officials said they plan to ask registrants for permission to send the registration form, though federal approval for the change is not expected until the fall.
Several state Medicaid programs have been tried in recent years with transportation programs that include email marketing.
In 2019, Louisiana worked with the nonprofit organization Code for America to send out emails reminding people about the reclamation and providing financial information for verification. Compared to traditional communication methods, the texts led to a 67% increase in subscribers for coverage and an increase of 56% of subscribers confirming their earn money by answering questions, says Medicaid spokeswoman Alyson Neel.
However, the state does not plan to write Medicaid registrants about the end of the health problem because it has not put in place a system for that. “Medicaid hasn’t been able to implement its email system because of industry priorities,” Neel said.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a government news agency that publishes in -depth journalism on health issues. It is an independent editing program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation).