Social Media: A Critical Tool for States to Leverage as Unwinding Winds Down

It is no secret that social media is one of the most powerful tools state Medicaid and CHIP agencies can employ when attempting to reach out to eligible individuals. Over 70% of adults ages 18–64 use at least one social media site, and targeted outreach on these platforms could help spread the word about programs that these individuals might be eligible for. Beyond targeted messages, there is great potential for organic growth and cost-effective reach through engaging and informative posts. Specifically, video content has seen exponential growth in recent years, especially with the rise in popularity of video based platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram Reels.

Our recent state outreach snapshot looked at which state Medicaid and CHIP agencies run accounts on the most popular social media platforms: YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. We also noted other platforms that were publicly linked on state agency websites, such as Vimeo, Pinterest, SoundCloud, and others. All states but one operated an account on at least one of these platforms, and on average, states operate accounts on four different platforms. Creating basic accounts on each of these platforms is free, as is posting content (with some exceptions for content length, particularly on X), providing a cost-effective channel to release content about program eligibility, enrollment reminders, and news that enrollees might be interested in. By operating accounts on different platforms states are able to reach different populations with similar content. States can also easily modify their content if they wish to better reach different audiences based on the demographics of users on specific platforms. For example, different age groups are more active on some platforms over others. The Pew Research Center also found there are differences in platform usage based on gender, race, ethnicity, income, and education. States can (and should!) target messages to resonate with targeted populations when posting content to different platforms.

While most states operate on several platforms, the frequency and type of content varies across states. Access Health CT, Connecticut’s integrated state-based marketplace, operates an account on YouTube that has posted hundreds of videos about accessing and enrolling in quality healthcare plans since they opened their account in 2013. Similarly, the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration operates a robust YouTube account that covers eligibility and enrollment in Medicaid. Videos are often posted in multiple languages, which can assist non-English speaking families to enroll in coverage.

While YouTube offers a great platform for more informative videos, there is less natural engagement with eligible individuals who might not know about the services their state provides. Short-form content on both X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram allow for state agencies to leverage the algorithm to get their message in front of new eyes. During the unwinding of the pandemic-era Medicaid continuous coverage requirement, known widely as the Medicaid unwinding, many states used compelling graphics and short, pithy messages to disseminate crucial information about completing information packets and updating address information, both of which help eligible individuals remain covered.

During the unwinding, many states amplified their outreach abilities, including leveraging community partners and utilizing consumer assistance strategies. Now that the unwinding is wrapping up, states can and should seize this momentum and create more “evergreen” content, including information about eligibility and enrollment during normal operations. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services posts frequently on Instagram about how to manage one’s Medicaid case in multiple languages. They also post engaging stories about individuals enrolled in Medicaid that have had positive experiences – this can help eligible and enrolled individuals know how best to utilize their Medicaid services and improve their health. One way states can amplify their message with only one additional click of a button is cross-posting their Instagram posts onto both Facebook and Threads. Massachusetts Health Connector is a great example of an agency that uses the same content on multiple platforms to increase the range of their message.

As we mentioned, it has been a full year since the Medicaid unwinding began, and many states are beginning to wrap up their process and return to regular operations. Unfortunately, Medicaid programs across the country have seen a cumulative enrollment decline of over 12 million individuals – including 5 million children. Leveraging social media is a critical tool that will allow eligible children and families to be reconnected to coverage, through either Medicaid, CHIP or a marketplace plan. State agencies can and should post relevant enrollment and eligibility information on these free platforms in an effort to connect with those who are both newly eligible and those who have remained eligible for Medicaid/CHIP but lost coverage due to red tape.