February 7 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Texting Medicaid enrollees
  • No Surprises Act Toolkit
  • ARPA funding for HCBS IT needs
  • Medicaid enrollees’ communication preferences
  • Using Medicaid to Expand Access to Doula Care
  • State updates: AL, AZ, CA, MA, MN, NC, NY, PA, TX, WA & WI


Using Text Messaging to Reach Medicaid Enrollees 
State Health and Value Strategies published a new expert perspective, Text Messaging: An Important Communication and Outreach Strategy as States Unwind the Federal Medicaid Continuous Coverage Requirement that describes states’ authority to send text messages and requirements for obtaining consent. As states develop strategies for unwinding the continuous coverage requirement, many are looking to text messaging as a mechanism for outreach to their Medicaid and CHIP enrollees to communicate important information.

As a reminder, SHVS has an accessible one-stop source of information for states to prepare for the end of the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement.

No Surprises Act Toolkit 
SHVS also published a communications toolkit Communicating About Surprise Billing: A Toolkit for States Implementing the No Surprises Act. As of January 1, the new federal No Surprises Act is in effect to protect consumers from surprise medical bills for out-of-network care. The new toolkit includes suggested template resources to use in communicating with consumers about the No Surprises Act. 

How States Can Use ARPA Funding to Support HCBS Technology Needs 
The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) MCO Learning Hub will host the next webinar in their series on Innovations in Medicaid on March 9. The webinar will discuss how states can use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 to invest in HCBS to improve service delivery for complex populations. One area where states can deploy the one-time ARPA funds is by investing in technology for more efficient data sharing to improve care coordination, health outcomes and bend the cost curve for Medicaid members receiving HCBS. The panel speakers will discuss how states can think strategically about using ARPA funds for technology investments that benefit HCBS enrollees and how MCOs can support states to design and implement this strategy.

Preferences for Communications Regarding Eligibility, Enrollment, and Renewal
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) published an issue brief on Medicaid enrollees’ communication preferences during the enrollment and renewal process, based on stakeholder interviews and enrollee focus groups. Effective communications strategies to enrollees are crucial as states prepare for resuming normal operations at the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency and the unwinding of the continuous coverage requirements. As a reminder, SHVS published Planning for the End of the Continuous Coverage Requirement: A Communications Toolkit for States that provides a communications planning guide and template communications resources designed to support state Medicaid agencies as they prepare for the upcoming end of the continuous coverage requirement.

Expanding Access to Doula Care through Medicaid
The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families published a blog on the lessons learned from early state experiences using Medicaid to expand access to doula care. As policymakers work to address the national maternal health crisis and its disproportionate impact on pregnant people of color, they are increasingly looking to expand access to care provided by doulas. Doulas are non-medical professionals who provide emotional, physical, and informational support during prenatal, birth, and postpartum periods and help advocate for the needs and wishes of the mother before, during, and after pregnancy. Evidence suggests expanding access to doula care is an essential step toward advancing maternal health equity. For purchasing and payment strategies to support state efforts to reduce disparities in birth outcomes, see the SHVS issue brief Promising Approaches to Reducing Disparities in Birth-Related Health Outcomes in Medicaid

  • Alabama – The Alabama Department of Public Health introduced a new multimedia communications campaign, “Alabama Unites Against COVID.” The campaign, which stresses the importance of COVID-19 vaccines as well as testing, speaks to all Alabamians from rural regions to urban areas and aims to direct them to a new website, alabamaunites.com. The website is intended to be easy to navigate with buttons for locating vaccination and testing sites, updated guidance, frequently asked questions, vaccine information, and what to expect when testing for COVID-19. 

  • Arizona

    • The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) announced that CMS granted approval of AHCCCS’ home and community-based services (HCBS) Spending Plan which allows the agency to begin implementing all of the activities in its spending plan and narrative, and qualify for a temporary 10 percentage point increase to the FMAP for certain Medicaid expenditures for HCBS.

    • AHCCCS is surveying Arizona Long Term Care members who reside in long-term care settings and their family members. The survey asks questions about whether members feel safe and protected. 

  • California – Governor Newsom announced the availability of $1.1 billion to help people transitioning out of homelessness and provide them the mental health housing and treatment they need. The funds are part of the Governor’s $14 billion homelessness package that will create 55,000 new housing units and treatment slots when fully implemented. 

  • Massachusetts – A Massachusetts request for proposals was released for a network of community behavioral health centers to coordinate and integrate mental health and substance use disorder treatment for MassHealth members. The procurement will be handled by the state’s behavioral health vendor Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership. Responses are due on April 13, awards will be announced on May 25, and implementation is anticipated for January 1, 2023. 

  • Minnesota – MNsure, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, announced that a record number of Minnesotans signed up for private health insurance plans during the recent open enrollment period. 134,257 Minnesotans signed up for 2022 health insurance coverage between November 1, 2021, and January 15, 2022, which is 11,988 more than in the previous year’s open enrollment period and represents a 10 percent increase.

  • New York

    • Governor Kathy Hochul announced the availability of more than $100 million in funding over the next five years for 12 new intensive crisis stabilization centers across the state that will provide immediate care for people who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The Office of Mental Health and the Office of Addiction Services and Supports have issued a joint request for proposals to fund development of the centers. 

    • The State Department of Health will be working with localities, community-based organizations, and healthcare centers to establish 58 new #VaxForKids pop-up vaccination sites in all regions of the state to increase vaccination rates among children and adolescents. 

  • North Carolina

    • The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announcedthat North Carolina was one of four states selected to participate in a new multi-stakeholder alternative payment model initiative in partnership with the Health Care Payment Learning & Action Network and CMS. The initiative will build directly on North Carolina’s Medicaid managed care transformation work.

    • The state submitted a request to CMS to amend its Section 1115(a) demonstration “North Carolina Medicaid Reform Demonstration.” The state is seeking to extend the end date of the demonstration, adjust the coverage approach under the BH I/DD Tailored Plans, modify implementation of the Healthy Opportunity Pilots, and exclude the COVID-19 testing group from mandatory managed care. The federal public comment period will be open through March 4, 2022.

  • Pennsylvania – Governor Tom Wolf announced that 30 counties have received nearly $28 million in additional federal funding to enhance their behavioral health programs. The grants will target specific statewide priorities, including mobile crisis mental health services, telehealth, student assistance programs, start-up funding for residential treatment services and assisted outpatient treatment, and additional crisis services projects.

  • Texas – Texas Health and Human Services released a request for offers for Application Maintenance and Development services and ongoing support for the state’s modernized Medicaid Enterprise Systems (formerly Medicaid Managed Information System). 

  • Washington – A record 240,000 Washingtonians signed up for 2022 coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. This represents an increase of more than six percent over 2021.

  • Wisconsin – Governor Evers, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice announced the launch of the updated Dose of Reality initiative. The goal of this information and education campaign is to change the conversation around Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic and provide the tools for all Wisconsinites to prevent or reduce the risks of opioid use through open and honest talks about the dangers of opioids and ways to save lives.