It’s been a long journey, but Medicaid expansion is finally a reality in Missouri. That means for the first time, more adults qualify for low-cost or free health insurance through MO HealthNet (Missouri’s Medicaid program). This includes parents who have not qualified before, as well as childless adults. That’s an additional 275,000 people who can now gain Medicaid coverage in the state. This increase in eligibility has the potential to change the health trajectories of so many people, but based on our research, a substantial portion of the newly qualified don’t yet know about expansion or what it could mean for them.
Our initial communications campaign on the issue, “Makes Sense MO,” launched in 2020. It extolled the many health and economic benefits that expansion would bring to Missouri and ended alongside the successful ballot initiative vote in August of that year. In preparation for the hundreds of thousands of additional people who would soon qualify for Medicaid, we then refocused our communications work on making sure that newly eligible Missourians are aware of the change and how they can access enrollment assistance. This #YourHealthIsWorthIt campaign has prioritized outreach to populations that are most impacted by health inequities, such as racial and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants and refugees, and those who live in rural areas.
We entered this phase of work with the same humility we strive for in all our efforts. We have partners on the ground who help people enroll and other trusted groups that are organically promoting expansion. We surveyed these organizations to get a better sense for what resources, messaging, and tools would be most helpful to them. Their unique community perspectives proved invaluable in developing the campaign.
Counting on You (English)
Counting on You (Spanish)
On the other side of the equation, we have the disparate collection of people who we are most interested in assisting. Our equity lens helped us identify these demographics, but we needed to learn from them directly in order to ensure our messaging resonated across audiences. We convened five focus groups, each featuring a different portion of our target audiences – white, conservative-leaning low-income individuals; Latino low-income individuals; uninsured low-income immigrant individuals; and Black uninsured low-income individuals. This research was essential in giving us insight into what would be compelling enough to spur people to action.
#YourHealthIsWorthIt officially launched in October of 2021, the first month Missouri began accepting applications under expansion. This broad campaign includes English and Spanish video spots and radio promos, as well as a regularly updated social media toolkit for groups to help disseminate. The call to action through these and other channels is for members of the public to visit covermissouri.org/help, where they can find in-person or virtual assistance in enrolling.
This effort is happening in tandem with the community engagement work we’re cultivating with our hundreds of Cover Missouri partners. Through this collaboration we gain insights into the field, including what materials are needed to help promote enrollment and awareness and how we can better support partners as we focus on positioning them as trusted voices on the issue in their communities. We continue to refine and add to a growing collection of resources for their use. And while getting Medicaid implemented and Missourians enrolled continues to have its challenges, our work continues.
As of spring 2022, the number of Missourians enrolled under expansion remains well below projections. This is due to a number of factors, though the most pressing concern currently is the more than 70,000 people with pending applications. Wait times to hear back about submissions are averaging nearly three-times longer than the 45-day maximum processing time defined under federal law. There remain over 100,000 Missourians who could have access to affordable, potentially lifesaving health insurance, but they don’t yet realize it. Our awareness campaign will evolve to tell the stories of those who have benefited from their new coverage, keep the topic alive in the media, and help so many others get the insurance they need to improve their health and that of their communities.
We all have a part to play in spreading the word about Medicaid expansion in Missouri, and you never know who might qualify for this potentially life-changing coverage. Talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends, and inspire them to do the same through their informal networks. Encourage anyone who has question as to whether they qualify or how to apply to visit CoverMissouri.org/help. Our state’s health is worth it.
Has Medicaid helped you or someone you love? Please share your story with us here.
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