Back to Basics: Effective State Medicaid and CHIP Outreach to Families Doesn’t Need to be Complicated

In this series, we’ve been diving deeper into our outreach snapshot to look at more state-based examples that we find compelling. Though they may seem disparate, this installment covers some of the most quintessential outreach activities included in the research.

First up: videos focused on outreach to individuals and families, such as who is eligible for benefits and helpful reminders on program basics. Along with Facebook, YouTube is the most widely used online platform, where several government agencies operate accounts that post generalized videos informing the public about coverage options through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). As an example, Utah has a 30-second educational video focused on informing parents about Medicaid and CHIP coverage options for their kids.

Next, we looked at some of the most basic forms of outreach: fliers, brochures, and toolkits (oh my!). We specifically sought out outreach materials related to children and back-to-school efforts. Unsurprisingly, this category had the most materials specific to CHIP, such as this school lunch flier from Louisiana. In addition to the examples highlighted in the report, simple brochures and fliers, like these from Missouri and Florida, can communicate a great deal of information about programs in a succinct way and can be used in a variety of settings, such as community-based organizations and health provider offices.

We searched agency websites for communications toolkits that could be leveraged by stakeholders, though we intentionally did not include toolkits for unwinding communications. Only 13 states had an evergreen communications toolkit publicly available. Indiana has a communications toolkit that has social media posts and animations available for download for Hoosier Healthwise, the state’s healthcare program for pregnant women and children. Their pre-made posts are even broken down into informational categories, such as basic Q&A animations and program eligibility.

With our broad definition of outreach, there were two additional public information tactics – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and screening tools – that were captured in this section of the snapshot. FAQs, often in the form of a simple webpage, are an easy and cost effective way for state agency’s to answer basic questions about their Medicaid and CHIP programs. FAQs also have the potential to decrease phone calls made to call centers and thereby reduce phone traffic to overburdened systems.

Finally, screening tools can provide an efficient way for individuals to test whether they and/or their family members are eligible for benefits prior to starting a full application, saving time for residents as well as for state agency workers. We found that the length of screening tools varies, but most contain the same basic questions about household size, age, residency, and income. For example, Arizona’s prescreening tool consists of three questions to test for medical assistance, in addition to other benefits such as SNAP, while Illinois’ prescreening tool dives deeper by asking about receipt of SSI, pregnancy status, employment status, and county of residence. The screening tools for California and Kentucky are both part of their integrated state-based marketplace, allowing individuals to find out whether they are eligible for Medicaid or marketplace coverage, including eligibility for marketplace subsidies.

As this section of the snapshot shows, there are a multitude of simple, yet effective, ways that states can conduct outreach to and educate individuals and families in need of benefits. This is increasingly important, as millions of children have lost Medicaid and CHIP coverage, often due to procedural reasons rather than ineligibility. States should further maximize their outreach efforts and include messages that prompt families who have lost coverage to re-apply.