Engaging Medicaid members is a consistent challenge for health plans, pandemic or not. Those members often move residences more frequently, making it more difficult for plans to maintain accurate contact information. In addition, Medicaid members may have low health care literacy, chronic medical conditions, or other circumstances that make it harder to connect. But, to effectively run a plan that serves its members and delivers preventive care, member engagement is crucial.
And there is good reason to ramp up member engagement efforts now:
People Are Scared
The pandemic has rattled us all. The disease and death caused by COVID-19, along with social distancing and stay-at-home orders, have all had an impact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020.”
People are At Risk
Medicaid members are more likely to have living conditions that put them at higher risk to COVID-19, like working essential jobs in grocery stores and restaurants and living in more crowded spaces. They are also more likely to experience job loss, food insecurity, and worry about paying rent and utilities.
People are Lonely
According to the US Census Bureau, 28% of Americans live in single-person households. That means 28% of the population is navigating COVID-19 alone.
Despite the challenges brought on by the global pandemic, COVID-19 has opened an opportunity to improve Medicaid member engagement and serve those members during this time of rapid change in health care.
Opportunity to Connect
Now is the time to increase efforts to get accurate contact information for members and to establish a connection. With continued social distancing, people are at home more frequently and are more available to calls. And, in this uncertain environment, there is more motivation for members to get information from their health plan.
It is also a time to be sure members are assigned to a primary care provider who can manage their care. It is important that members know who their provider is, and how to contact him or her.
Opportunity to Educate
COVID-19 creates an opportunity to educate members on how to get the most out of their health care plan in the new normal.
- Doctors’ offices, urgent care, and even emergency rooms have new protocols in place. Members need to be educated on how to access care and what to do if they feel sick.
- Should your members get tested for COVID-19? If so, what is the process? Is it covered?
- It’s time to encourage flu shots, answer questions about a potential coronavirus vaccine, and help parents understand what to do if they missed scheduled vaccinations for their children during lockdown.
- How can you help members learn to productively engage with health care providers in new ways, like telehealth?
As always, these engagements provide an opportunity to educate members about 24/7 Nurse Advice Lines and the appropriate utilization of emergency room care.
Opportunity to Bridge Gaps
Member engagement often includes bridging gaps that get in the way of members getting the care they need.
Right now, that may mean connecting members to resources that bridge the gap for those who do not have access to technology or broadband Internet. Understanding how to use technology may also get in the way of members getting the care they need.
While the impact of this pandemic is still playing out, we can surely anticipate that Medicaid members will need additional support accessing social services, like food pantries and help for rent and utility payments.
This is an extraordinary time. And while there are unquestionable challenges, there are also opportunities to connect with Medicaid members, educate them, and help them bridge gaps to ensure they have access to the care they need.