UnitedHealthcare Community & State leaders came together with Medicaid directors, industry stakeholders and key decision-makers at the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) 2022 Fall Conference in November. This annual event held in Washington, D.C. provides insights into Medicaid directors' priorities and how they are partnering with the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS) to anticipate and respond to evolving needs.
While the overall theme of the conference stressed the importance of cross-system collaboration, trusted community partners and shared priorities for creating a strong and supportive Medicaid program, the unwinding of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) was still a large focus.
Challenges and progress in Medicaid
The uncertainty surrounding the unwinding period of the PHE is creating a strain on a system that is serving a record number of individuals.
States and CMCS noted that the same or, in some cases, fewer number of staff members are working to manage greater volumes of work — from waivers, regulations and renewals to questions from those using the program. Workforce and workload challenges plus the high level of uncertainty surrounding the end of the PHE is adding strain to an already challenging job. Various NAMD representatives and Medicaid directors used their time on stage to request greater predictability in the timing and environment around the unwinding of the PHE and the resumption of redeterminations.
CMS Administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure and CMCS Director, Daniel Tsai, both celebrated progress on extending postpartum coverage, acknowledged the volume of work surrounding the unwinding and highlighted continued focus on health equity and access.
Reducing the stigma of mental health
Lynnette Rhodes, Executive Director of the Medical Assistance Plans Division with the Georgia Department of Community Health, interviewed Lorenzo Lewis, Chief Visionary of The Confess Project of America, on strategies to increase access and reduce stigma of mental health among men and boys within the Black community. Mr. Lewis shared his personal story and development of a mental health first-aid model that is delivered through community barbershops.
The use of peers and trusted community leaders to engage in conversations using active listening, coping skills, connection to community, provider and crisis resources has proved to be an engaging and meaningful intervention. Many in the room expressed a deep interest in supporting this and similar models.
Pillars of health equity
In her address, New Jersey Medicaid Director Jennifer Langer Jacobs highlighted her vision for health equity, which includes the following three pillars:
- Clinical equity is focused on equity in health outcomes. She noted a strong focus on maternal health disparities, but also highlighted inequity in hospice care, cancer screenings and pressure sores among individuals receiving care in nursing facilities.
- Operational equity is the experience of receiving care. She noted the differences between her ability to get in a car and drive to her doctor appointment versus a member who is reliant on non-emergent medical transportation services that require booking two days in advance of an appointment. This ride often is not as precise, with a two-hour window of availability on either side of the appointment.
- Inclusivity focused on both diversity in the workforce and authentic inclusion of consumer voices in benefit and program design and evaluation.
UnitedHealthcare Community & State shared the release of our 2022 Report on Health Equity in Medicaid and highlights from UnitedHealthcare Catalyst™ initiatives from across the country as part of the conference.
Friends from Sesame Workshop stopped by to welcome attendees to our Comfy-Cozy Space. We shared lots of meaningful conversations, explored children's books on resilience and wellness and indulged in a cookie or two with Walkaround Cookie Monster. We are excited to share that our booth materials were brought to Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C. to create a Comfy-Cozy space in their Upper Cardozo Health Center.
We look forward to continuing to work alongside our state partners to advance the important topics covered at this year’s conference.