Unwinding Wednesday #4: PHE Unwinding Related FAQs

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Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs are a popular way to provide information based on the types of questions people most frequently ask. But like all types of communications, how well FAQs convey information depends on the audience and how easy the content is to understand.

In our 50-State Unwinding Tracker, we have found 28 states that have some version of FAQs related to public health emergency (PHE) continuous coverage provision. But these documents are wide-ranging, and often are more general in nature and not directed at a specific audience, such as enrollees or health care providers. Although focus group research suggests that enrollees are frequently unaware of what the PHE is, many of the FAQs start by trying to explain it. And it’s interesting the difference in framing that is used across states. The content would be more accessible to a wider audience if states simply provided direct information about coverage being extended and what happens next. Some states use an alternative theme by referring to the unwinding as a “return to normal” rather than tying it to the PHE. Most states describe the continuous coverage protection as a federal requirement, while some note that it was a law. But I think Wisconsin’s framing hit the sweetspot: “During COVID-19, Wisconsin worked with the federal government to put temporary policies in place for BadgerCare Plus and Medicaid programs to protect our members’ health and safety. One of those changes has allowed you to keep your coverage without renewing. Those temporary policies are still in affect [sic], we’ll let you know when that changes.”

A few states have created FAQs for different audiences. For example, Michigan has three FAQs posted. One addresses general PHE questions, another is directed to Medicaid health plan members and provides information on eligibility and renewals, and a third is directed to community partners and providers. Targeting FAQs to specific constituencies allows the state to customize the content and provide each group what they need to know without overly complex or extraneous information. For providers and managed care plans, the terms may be more technical and require background knowledge on the PHE. Alternatively, FAQs directed to enrollees can be limited to what they need to know to keep their coverage. I like the approach of some states that ask the questions in the voice of the enrollee – for example, the Kansas FAQ frames questions like this: “Do I still need to report my changes to KanCare?”

There are a number of questions and answers that are common across the states. Those include:

  • What should I do now? (update contact information/report changes)
  • What comes next? (be on lookout for a renewal notice)
  • When will the public health emergency end? (we don’t know but we’ll let you know)
  • How will I know what I need to do? (you’ll get a notice and we’ll tell you)
  • When will I get my renewal? (sometime in the 12 months after the PHE ends)
  • What if I lose Medicaid? (ask what alternative coverage options are available?).

One question that I saw on a couple of FAQs was “how will I know when my renewal is due?” Those states generally refer enrollees to their online accounts to check their renewal dates, but it’s unclear how many state online accounts include renewal dates. It’s not something we track with the Kaiser Family Foundation in our annual eligibility and enrollment survey.

Some state FAQs were posted months ago; we know this because they refer to projected PHE end dates that have already passed. A few states stop short of discussing renewals but recommend that readers check back for updates.

Each week, we are finding additional elements on state websites and in public documents to include in the tracker. But documents and other information are easy to miss depending on how and where information gets posted, so please let us know if something has escaped our searches. We’re also considering other elements that would be of interest to Say Ahhh! readers, so let us know if there is a particular element that would be useful to you.

[Editor’s Note: For more information, visit our PHE Unwinding resource page where you’ll find other blogs in this series, reports, and the 50-state tracker.]

Tricia Brooks is a Research Professor at the Center for Children and Families (CCF), part of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University.