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Experts: Texts Could Help Shrink Post-COVID Health-Coverage Gap

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Tuesday, May 31, 2022   

The COVID-19 public health emergency mandating continuous coverage for Medicaid enrollees is expected to expire later this year, and experts say states such as Kentucky could ramp up communication, including text messages and emails to beneficiaries, to ensure residents don't slip through the cracks when the policy ends.

Since the start of the pandemic, many Kentuckians have moved, and changed their address and possibly their phone number.

Farah Erzouki, senior policy analyst for the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, said state agencies likely do not have updated information for a significant number of their Medicaid population.

"And this will present a significant challenge if it goes unaddressed because many people won't get notices in the mail when it's time for them to renew," Erzouki explained. "And won't know what they need to do to keep their Medicaid coverage."

She noted people often lose coverage for procedural reasons during the renewal process, such as not submitting required forms even if they're still eligible. Erzouki also pointed out long call-center wait times can make navigating the process even more challenging for households.

Erzouki added state Medicaid agencies should use methods such as texting and email to reach as many people as possible with upcoming reminders about policy changes, and clear instructions to help them take steps to either stay enrolled or apply for marketplace coverage.

"We know that about 97% of people with incomes less than $30,000 per year have a cellphone, and text messaging is quickly becoming the norm for how individuals want and expect to receive updates," Erzouki emphasized. "States should be responsive to this by adopting text messaging as a way to reach enrollees."

She stressed residents whose income has increased above the eligibility threshold and are no longer eligible for Medicaid are especially at risk for losing coverage. Advocates have called on Congress to extend the enhanced subsidies making marketplace coverage more affordable for millions.

Disclosure: Kentucky Voices for Health contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children's Issues, Consumer Issues, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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