With the federal public health emergency (PHE) extended until mid-October, University of Utah Health Plans is focusing on outreach and communication efforts with providers, clinics, and their Medicaid members.
Their partners, the Utah Health Policy Project’s Take Care Utah initiative, are using navigators to reach the most vulnerable in Utah communities to ensure they do not lose health coverage when the PHE ends and temporary eligibility expansions expire.
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Streamlining eligibility redeterminations in Utah has been a challenging and important topic as the end of the PHE draws near. With University of Utah Health Plans being one of the largest Medicaid plans in the state, communication about the complicated process of eligibility redeterminations is key to keeping folks—especially those new to Medicaid coverage—insured.
University of Utah Health Plans communicated with all University of Utah Health providers and other frontline professionals as a “call to action” to remind members to update their contact information, said Lexi McCausland, Communications Manager of University of Utah Health Plans. Updated contact information allows the health plan to communicate with a member effectively to alert them on the necessary steps in the eligibility process.
The health plan also has screens upon entrance into clinics and waiting rooms to remind members to update their contact information, address, and make sure they are still eligible for Medicaid with the Department of Workforce Services (DWS). The health plan is doing all they can to get information to members in multiple ways, in case any one of them fails.
“If they don’t have an email address on file, then we’ll send a physical letter to their address that we have and hopefully it’s the right one,” McCausland said. “If not, we’re hoping that they’ll see some of the other communications around in the clinics with their provider about updating your address.”
Targeted approaches directly to members are necessary as well to get the information out. The health plan uses email, physical mail, and phone calls to reach members directly about their need to redetermine their eligibility. McCausland said emails are the primary focus of the health plan because while people move and change their physical address, folks rarely change their email address. This makes email the most reliable source for reaching members in Utah.
McCausland said these emails accommodate those whose second language is English. In communications, the health plan uses the preferred language of the member on file and uses that language in all outreach to that member. She said Spanish, Arabic, and Somali are the top languages—other than English—used by members. A member’s language preference is collected when they first sign up for Medicaid services, or from a provider who lists their preferred language in the EMR system.
Randal Serr, Health Plans Community Outreach Manager at University of Utah Health Plans, said his organization partners with Take Care Utah to supply health access assisters to members to help them navigate the health care and health insurance landscape. In their messaging, the health plan keeps their language simple and length of text low to grab the reader’s attention and refer them to Take Care Utah.
“In any email or letter we send out, we refer them to Take Care Utah because they can talk them through all of what they may or may not qualify for,” Serr said. “Our approach has been to keep a pretty basic message and help them understand where they can go for free help.”
Serr and McCausland said that COVID and the PHE “open the doors” to reforming Medicaid coverage.
“If there is one silver lining, we would not have anywhere near this amount of people on Medicaid right now [without PHE flexibilities],” Serr said. “This is a huge opportunity for us to retain as many people as possible and end up with more people on Medicaid than we would have without COVID.”