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Comment Letter to Federal Communications Commission: Use of Text Messages and Automated Calls to Reach Medicaid Beneficiaries

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, MACPAC commented on a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) letter requesting an opinion on the permissibility of Medicaid program representatives and contractors using text messages and automated calls to Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA, P.L. 102-243).

In their letter, HHS and CMS state that the use of text messages and automated pre-recorded telephone calls to individuals’ cell phones is an important tool for states and their partners to use to reach Medicaid enrollees, particularly as states resume eligibility redeterminations and renewals at the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).  MACPAC has recently convened two expert panels to discuss the challenges states face in reaching beneficiaries and the need for effective communication strategies as they prepare for the end of the PHE. Speakers on these panels shared CMS’ concerns, which include, for example, having outdated addresses for beneficiaries with unstable housing or mailed notices getting lost in the mail.

MACPAC is concerned about the potential for coverage loss by individuals who remain eligible but do not complete renewals because they do not receive mailed notices. Most Medicaid enrollees own smartphones and many individuals rely on their phone for internet access and to complete tasks such as applying for benefits. The use of text messages and automated phone calls could help ensure beneficiaries update their contact information with the state and receive information about redeterminations and renewals, which could help mitigate coverage losses. Text messaging also provides an alternative means of communication for Medicaid enrollees with disabilities or those who have language or communication barriers.