Unwinding Wednesday #2: Alert to Update Contact Information Most Common Unwinding Information Found on State Medicaid Websites

Last week, we launched our new 50-State Unwinding Tracker, which reflects whether states have posted key information or documents for preparation of the end of the public health emergency and the lifting of the Medicaid continuous coverage protection. In the coming weeks, we plan to lift up additional information that can be gleaned from the tracker, promote promising practices, and provide other unwinding-related news in our Unwinding Wednesday blog series.

For this week, we are focused on updating contact information. It’s not surprising that, of the six types of the unwinding documents and communications we are tracking, the most commonly-found element is some kind of alert for enrollees to update their address and/or contact information. After all, this is one of the first and most critical messages to convey to enrollees about the events to come. To date, more than two-thirds of the states (37) are using their websites to remind Medicaid enrollees of the importance of keeping their contact information current.

As always, the devil is in the details. On many of the 37 state websites, the message to update contact information is buried in narrative text and fine print – often requiring you to scroll down through other content. Some of these messages urge enrollees to report changes but do not provide links or information on how to do so. And if you’re not looking specifically for that information, it’s very easy to miss it.

The best alerts are those that make the message stand out and either list ways to update contact information or have a button that takes you to a link with specific information. Take Alabama, for example — when you go to the home page of the Medicaid website, a rotating view of six messages are shown in large print with photos or graphics that cover much of the page. When you see the mailbox photo and message to update your address, you click and it takes you to a page that lists the ways to update your contact information in English and Spanish. I also like Illinois’ approach, posting a simple, secure one-page online form that only requires the individual to report the old and the new address (no unique Medicaid number required, which would make it less useful). Illinois also uses the form to optionally provide or update email addresses and allow enrollees to opt-in for email or text messages, which will facilitate future communications.

Of course, these are not the only way that states are encouraging enrollees to report changes. In some state plans, we find additional information about actions states are taking to update addresses. Arizona’s summary plan indicates that the state agency and its managed care plans have made targeted efforts to reach members through social media platform messages, texts, robocalls, and US mail. Michigan’s plan indicates that the state has attempted to update addresses by comparing data in the Michigan Disease Surveillance System (MDSS), the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR), and the US Postal Service National Change of Address Database (NCOA).

And, a number of states are providing communications materials for providers and community-based partners to use in amplifying the message. Take Arkansas, for example. The state has published a client toolkit that includes how to “update your address,” an FAQ, flyers, social media graphics, sample email and text messages, and a sample letter to the editor/newsletter drop-in article.

However, we could find no “update your address” or “report changes” alerts on 14 state websites either by searching the website directly or using online search engines. This doesn’t necessarily mean the state isn’t doing anything to encourage enrollees to update their information, but it does mean that people won’t find it easily. This is one of those messages that needs to be repeated often and on an ongoing basis – that’s why you generally can’t check-in for a medical appointment without confirming your contact information.

Keep in mind that Section 1902(e)(14)(a) temporary waivers allow states to accept verified contact information from a managed care plan without re-verifying and to use in-state forwarding addresses from the US Postal Service even if the individual doesn’t provide confirmation. Nineteen states have received approval to work with MCOs to verify updated contact information and a dozen states are using USPS in-state forwarding addresses. This includes eight states for which we could find no messaging to update contact information on the state website (DC, IA, LA, MN, NM, OR, TX, and WY).

Medicaid stakeholders may want to take the opportunity to peruse your state’s documents or messages, which can be found when you download the tracker table version with links. You may also want to try searching on your own to see how easy it is to find information about updating enrollee contact information with the Medicaid agency. If your state doesn’t have an alert or the message doesn’t tell enrollees how to update their contact information, there is still time for the state take action.