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The public health emergency (PHE) is currently in place to July 15, 2022, but may be extended for another period of time, giving relief to many like Kayla Montaño who have relied on Medicaid coverage to access medical care during the pandemic. Kayla became pregnant toward the beginning of the pandemic and therefore qualified for Medicaid through her pregnancy. This is a particularly rare experience for Kayla who lives in Texas, one of twelve states that have yet to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Kayla’s experience parallels many in her community, for which she serves as a Community Outreach Specialist at La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), an organization that serves immigrant and Latinx families throughout the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. 

One of Kayla’s primary roles is to help families in her community apply for Medicaid. The Medicaid application process can understandably seem daunting with technical language that can be hard to understand and various details that require verification. This process has been minimized during the pandemic thanks to the current Medicaid continuous coverage requirement, enacted by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in March 2020, which prohibits states from disenrolling individuals from Medicaid for the duration of the PHE as a condition of accessing the enhanced Medicaid funding. As a result, Kayla and many others have been able to retain their Medicaid coverage despite the expiration of eligibility conditions.

The enrollment process is even more daunting for immigrants and mixed-status families who have fears about whether their application will trigger examinations of public charge either now or in the future, as was the case for a period of time during the Trump administration before the 2019 proposed rule was nationally blocked. As a Community Outreach Specialist, Kayla has spent a lot of time during the PHE answering questions and alleviating concerns, as the community she serves may be unaware of what the PHE entails. 

In order to effectively communicate with immigrant communities and/or communities that may speak languages other than English, it is important to identify the trusted leaders in these communities, how these communities prefer to communicate, and adapt resources in various languages that are easy to understand. Kayla highlighted that a major problem she faces is that even if the materials are in Spanish, she has to clarify the language with Medicaid agency staff as it is often confusing and not accessible for her community.

Examples of Culturally Competent Methods for Effective Communication about the PHE:

  1. Regular meetings where trusted leaders can answer questions. LUPE holds Facebook Live events called “Viernes con LUPE” where they educate their community and answer questions that people may have.
  2. Partnerships between managed care organizations (MCOs) and trusted leaders. An MCO in Kansas recognized that El Centro, a community resource that has served Latino immigrants and families in Wyandotte and Johnson Counties in Kansas for the past 45 years, was a trusted leader in their community and sponsored them to produce simple, yet effective commercials in Spanish on Spanish television networks and on their social media. These commercials effectively reach their community and inform them of the need to prioritize address updates and redetermine their eligibility in Medicaid. Find their commercials HERE.

Special thank you to Kayla Montaño for sharing her Medicaid experience and the experiences of those she serves as part of LUPE. Another thanks to Erica Andrade for sharing El Centro’s commercials.