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Improving Medicaid Access in Times of Health Policy Change: Solutions from Focus Groups with Frontline Enrollment Workers


Enrollment navigators and government-employed Medicaid workers were an important element in the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) initial enrollment success. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services eliminated 41% of funding for 2017 navigator programs and 90% of funding for outreach, arguing less investment was needed. Given that many remain uninsured, it is critical to identify effective enrollment practices. This study characterizes barriers and enrollment strategies from the perspective of California's Medicaid government and community-based enrollment workers (n=101 in eight focus groups). Participants identified a need for communication with policymakers, the state exchange, and each other regarding changing enrollment processes. Solutions include increased contact between enrollment workers to share strategies and policy updates regarding application processing, uniform policy interpretation, and details of ACA-related immigration law. Given efforts to weaken the ACA, it is critical to engage frontline workers in problem solving to streamline enrollment strategies, particularly for vulnerable populations.

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