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Louisiana Turns to App for Medicaid Improvements, Accessibility

The Louisiana Department of Health has partnered with vendor MAXIMUS to streamline Medicaid enrollment, creating the Healthy Louisiana app. Eligible residents can use the app to compare health-care plans and find doctors.

Healthy Louisiana
The Healthy Louisiana app is meant to be a one-stop shop for Medicaid recipients.
Armed with a new app, Louisiana has modernized its Medicaid enrollment processes.

In the past, Medicaid-eligible Lousianans enrolled by responding to mailers, visiting Department of Health (DOH) offices, contacting call centers or working their way through the DOH website. The app now enables users to securely enroll in the program, compare health-care plans, find in-network doctors near their locations, and more. The state is billing this project, which has been dubbed Healthy Louisiana, as the first Medicaid enrollment app in the country.

And it seems to be well-received among users. To date, Healthy Louisiana carries a 4.5-star rating on the Apple App Store, with one of the 68 ratings reading: “So wonderful of a service that is provided for people that can’t afford. So grateful.”

This work was done after federal regulations required the state to procure an independent enrollment broker. The winning company, MAXIMUS, worked with DOH, developing the Healthy Louisiana app for Apple and Android devices. 

DOH Medicaid Program Monitor Micah Caswell said the app has been downloaded about 40,000 times, and it continues to attract more enrollees as it is refined and improved. Since the app’s launch, digital enrollment has risen to account for about 30 percent of state Medicaid health plan choices made in the past year, Caswell said.

“What the app does is allow members to have a digital means of enrollment that doesn’t require them to remember a Web address,” Caswell told Government Technology. “They download it on their phone, they can use it each time they need to make an enrollment choice.”

In March, an update expanded Healthy Louisiana to include a Spanish language option and geolocation services that help users get directions to nearby in-network doctors.

DOH spokesman Robert Johannessen said Healthy Louisiana simplifies the often arduous task of comparing differences between five managed care plans so a user can easily find the best option to suit their needs.

“This pretty much continues a strategic initiative of the department and Medicaid to find as many different pathways as possible for us to be able to communicate with our Medicaid members,” Johannessen said. “Since we went to the managed care format, most of the health plan to member communications is handled by the [Managed Care Organizations], so it’s incumbent upon us as an agency to be able to identify ways that Medicaid can speak directly to our members. This is one of those tools that we now have.”

He also said DOH is working with MAXIMUS to diversify the agency’s communication channels with residents and facilitate better options to receive and review feedback from the 1.5 million Louisiana Medicaid recipients.

Michael Bostian, the senior director of mobile products at MAXIMUS, said that while there isn’t a formal education campaign, information about Healthy Louisiana is sent along with mailings and addressed by call center staff. Bostian said MAXIMUS and the state are focusing efforts on word of mouth and will build out from there.

“In addition to getting the message out within the state of Louisiana, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to get the message out within [DOH] itself to make sure that everybody there has bought into the idea of this app and they’re able to go out and evangelize it themselves,” he said.

Healthy Louisiana is built on a flexible platform that allows for customization and additional features to be layered onto the company’s solution throughout the lifespan of the application, he said. The MAXIMUS team is encouraged to observe the user experience of other everyday apps and then attempt to emulate that in its own product.

Bostian said the integration of Google Maps mirrors how other apps draw upon the GPS service to provide users with directions without having to leave the Healthy Louisiana app.

“We know at this point that users aren’t going to tolerate antiquated, complex things,” he said. “They expect that there’s some commonality. They expect that if it’s Google Maps, it works the same in ‘App A’ as it does in ‘App B.’ We do try and work to ensure that our apps are as easy to use as all the other apps that we all use to manage our day-to-day lives.”

He said it’s important for MAXIMUS to be “in lock step” with DOH as more users download and use Healthy Louisiana. Both entities are developing new ways to streamline the Medicaid experience, but it’s too early in the process to give definitive examples, he said.

Caswell agreed that the partnership with MAXIMUS is a very close and collaborative one. He said DOH is heavily involved in all aspects of the app and maintains an ongoing dialogue with the company on how to further the capabilities of Healthy Louisiana.

“Any member that is eligible for Medicaid is placed into the managed care program, either by their choice or by an auto-assignment algorithm that is compliant with federal regulation,” Caswell said. “What [Healthy Louisiana] does is give members another mechanism to make their enrollment choices.”

Government Technology is Governing's sister e.Republic publication, offering in-depth coverage of IT case studies, emerging technologies and the implications of digital technology on the policies and management of public sector organizations.
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