Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of AFMC TV. We’re glad you’re joining us today. We are excited to have in the studio with us this morning Mr John Selig, of course AFMC CEO. But then we also have one of our friends over from DHS, Dawn is the Deputy Director of Medicaid or of DHS?

Dawn Stehle: Of DHS. There’s a couple of them, but I have the Health and Medicaid side.

MR: I have a bad habit of promoting people, so sometimes I leave the title to the guest. Dawn Stehle, thank you so much for joining us today. So wanted to have both of you in the studio because many people may not know the rich tradition, between and heritage between DHS and AFMC, we go back quite a ways.

DS: We do, yeah. In fact, John actually, when he was at  DHS actually hired me many years ago So, you know, I don’t want to say how many years, but I will say since that time  yes, really, since I started at DHS and then  certainly to today we’ve had a very good partnership working on  lots of different initiatives  initially starting out kind of within our general Medicaid space. And then as Medicaid has evolved and transitioned over time, AFMC has continued to help support  across many different areas.

John Selig: Yeah, it’s been a real pleasure for me because I said we worked, I say we when I was at DHS worked with the AFMC for years, particularly around Medicaid. And AFMC was always a good part of us. So it’s great for me to now be on the other side, see how can we support all of their new initiative.

MR: That’s right. Well let’s talk a little bit about some new initiatives that may be coming out at, we are in the final days of 2022 when you look out at 23 what do people need to know what changes may be coming?

DS: Absolutely. Well, there’s so much that’s happening right now, both today in terms of 2022 but as we think about 2023 both here in Arkansas. But as we look across the country, I know some of the things that we’re pretty excited about is some of the work that we’ve been doing, really focused on our member education  piece of the work  in particular,  we’ve really tried to focus on additional outreach and education, especially as we think about, you know, the fact that  over the past few years with the public health emergency and the impacts of Covid you know, many times, folks may not know what services are available to them or how to access services. So, you know, in particular, you know, AFMC has been a great partner helping us build out our call center  and doing outreach.   one of the other things that they’ve been doing with us is around our Medicaid client voice council, that’s something new that we’ve set up.  really,  I’m trying to think, it’s been about a year, it’s been about, yeah, it’s been about a year  that we’ve been doing that and  you know, it’s been great to be able to actually bring folks together, hear from clients about their experiences, the good and the bad right, That’s important to us. It’s important to understand what’s working what’s not.  but also really helpful as we think about Then, where do we go in the future? You know, whether it’s with policy changes, how we communicate with members or even just making sure people know what services are available. So, you know, I think that’s a big focus for us, certainly in 2022, but also as we look ahead to next year, is really around that outreach and education piece.  and how we can better communicate with our members and those we serve.

MR: Any  future collaborations not to  spill a lot of secrets or anything like that, but also going back to the fact that there’s been such a support. I I mean I I almost wonder  the support arm that AFMC has been able to provide has allowed DHS to be able to do so much more than perhaps if they hadn’t had. the support with AFMC.

DS: Absolutely, I know one of those kind of building off of our outreach and education through the Call center has actually been focused on what we’re calling update Arkansas. So,  throughout the last couple of years, and particularly as we prepare for the end of the public health emergency whenever that comes.  we have started a campaign and AFMC has been a part of that helping us outreach  as well as take  take calls  and other communications from members around what is your current address? What is the status of your case? Have there been changes, you know, trying to get people to update their information today? So that when we do start actually unwinding from the public health emergency, that we know how to reach them where to send that information.  and hopefully have the correct information on file. So  that’s been a big part of what we’ve done over the last several months, in fact.  I checked the report this morning and I think as of last week  with AFMC’s help, I think we’ve reached about 100 and 25,000 individuals’  and been able to either confirm or update contact information. for those members, which is pretty significant.  you know, especially this time of year when lots of other folks are calling and trying to get a hold of people, so we greatly appreciate that  today, but then as we move towards the eventual unwinding of the public health emergency, really transitioning that into what we’re calling our renew Arkansas campaign. And so,  That will be very important then in terms of having people know, yes, you can still call and update your information, but now we really want to make sure that if we send you something,  if you hear something, if you need to update information, let’s go ahead and get that done right. So we can make sure that those who are still eligible for Medicaid can continue participating in the program.

JS: Yeah, I just mentioned a couple of others. I mean, DHS is always trying to do new things your AR home program and within it the life 360 program. I realize acronyms, but I mean they’re working with hospitals and local community based organizations to really focus on some vulnerable populations like high risk moms  kids coming out of foster care folks with behavioral health needs  and we hope to help some on that program as they really reach out and try to give more support to those populations. And then every year we work on something called the Medicaid Quality Initiative, where Medicaid’s  medical director and staff identify areas they really want to focus on to try to make improvements. For example, right now, I think it’s on the use of long acting reversible. Contraceptives and on really integrating more behavioral health into primary care practices. So we they say here’s what we want to do and then we figure out how to do it well. So it’s those kind of collaborations that are really fun.

MR: That’s exciting, very exciting. I know you’ve touched on a couple of times on the unwinding of the public health emergency, we anticipate that we will be coming in 2023  look into your crystal ball, what does that unwinding begin to look like because you’ve been serving clients who are brand new to the Medicaid environment, who may be leaving that environment as that winds down, what does that look like for those individuals?

DS: Yes, so part of what we’re trying to focus on is a making sure if you’re still eligible, let’s go ahead and get that done right. Because we have so many individuals that you know, during the public health emergency for whatever reason, you know, they may have moved  they may just, you know, have been dealing with Covid and not able to update their information. And so as part of that, we know that we have, we have a significant nber of individual, who coverage has been extended, right because normally we would be able to go ahead, reach out, you know, we typically reach out at least once a year and say, hey, we need to update your information, make sure you’re still eligible.  and so we know that there’s still some segment of that population that likely will still be eligible, but for others,  it may be helping them transition to other sources of coverage or care.  and so as part of that we’ve been working with  our partners at the  Arkansas Insurance department and also work with our federal partners to try to  help folks that then might not be eligible for Medicaid, you know, because of income purposes as an example to be able to transition to other types of coverage that might be available through the marketplace or helping them identify providers in their community that  can now help them, you know, continue with whatever care needs they may have and a F MC hopefully will continue to help perhaps  several role through that. Yes, definitely continuing our update Arkansas campaign and as we switch to our renew Arkansas,  that will be an important component of it. I think the other part of it, you know, we’ve talked a lot about the member side of it is also the provider facing piece of that.  one of the things that I think people often overlook as part of the public health emergency is, you know, through the federal government, we able to put in place  several flexibilities  in terms of basically allowing providers to provide services or to offer additional services that might otherwise have required additional reviews or approvals  that during the the time period of the public health emergency, we have said, ok, we’re going to relax some of those things instead, we we’re going to do like we’ll look and do  you know, kind of look back reviews those types of things, but really as we prepare for that public health emergency to end you know, we’ve seen a lot where some things have worked really well, like certainly a lot of  a lot of opportunities to be able to expand the use of telemedicine,  we’ve also seen some things that don’t work so well, telemedicine,  but as part of that, being able to then work with providers and others and say, ok great, you know, it was important to have these flexibilities in place. place during the public health Emergency. But as we go forward, you know, some of those things, we may say they need to go back in place or we need to change them or some of them, we might say we’re going to have a different way of how we actually, you know, authorize some of those services. And so, you know, even as we’ve been preparing for the end of the year,  you know, when we thought initially the public Health Emergency might end, You know, we’ve really had to kind of redouble our, our efforts to try to make sure providers know about what’s out there, what flexibilities have been in place  as well as which ones may be ending or changing  in the future. And so, you know, a F MC has been a great partner in our   provider outreach and education efforts, but also as we go forward, that will definitely be an important piece because even with some of the providers that we’ve talked to as of late, some either, you know, may have said, oh, I forgot about that or I didn’t know that that was temporary.  So it’ll be important then just as we think about with both our regular provider education efforts, but also as we think about, you know, with some of the new programs and services that we’re offering, making sure that providers know what they are, how to access them and ultimately get signed up to be able to provide them.

JS: I really appreciate Dawn mentioning our provider outreach team, they really love working with the local providers who do get overwhelmed with everything they’re trying to do and we kind of see our role as saying, ok, all the stuff out there, of all that information. here’s what in particular would be helpful to know, here’s the new changes. And so it feels like a nice partnership that’s good.

MR: That’s good. Dawn are there any  hopes as the public health emergency winds down things that have worked really well that you are hopeful, can we keep this piece still in play? or does it magically disappear when, when all of this  officially goes away.

DS: So one of the things that I feel like has been just a tremendous blessing to us throughout this has been the ability to really engage with our clients and with our providers and those that those that we serve every day.  you know, our relationships coming out of the public health emergency are so much stronger  than they were going into it. I’ve heard that from providers, I’ve heard that from, you know, some of our clients as well and I know that, you know, while you know, there will be the processes that we have to go through on eligibility and whatnot terms of the  the unwinding of the public health emergency. You know, I really want to continue to  to focus on and strengthen those relationships  because we’ve learned so much  about what worked and what didn’t work. You know, as we go forward, it’ll just be key to continuing that as we, as we look forward to the new year and eventually the end of the public health emergency.

JS: And I I would just add, I just had a chance to help a family friend apply for some benefits through DH s which I actually had never done before. I mean I’ve seen the website and it is so easy to do now, it it really lets you see all the services that are available, it lets you upload docents.  so I think that’s one of the improvements in the last couple of years that y’all have made is to really streamline that process and as you said, there are going to be people moving between programs, you may have been eligible for this, you may now be eligible for that and I think a lot of people think, well maybe I’m just eligible for nutrition and in fact they are eligible for health care too, so I would certainly encourage people if they haven’t been there to look at your website and to see frankly how easy it is to see what you’re eligible for.

MR:  And that leads perfectly into the last question is just how do individuals figure out what other options they might qualify for?

DS: Absolutely, I’m so glad you asked and john so glad you mentioned the website because that is, that is something we are really trying to make sure that folks know about.  currently we have information in there pertaining to Medicaid  or snap or what people might refer to as the food stamp program. Also for folks that need  tea or tan, which is temporary assistance to families, we’re also going to be continuing to add to that eventually  incorporating other programs and information like child care as an example, but one of the great things is whether you’re just interested or you’re new to it or you’re trying to help out a family friend. You could definitely  check out the website and get information. But even if you’re an existing client, you can also go in and you can upload that information.  you can actually take a picture on your phone  and  upload that or you can send it in if you’d like.  And so we’re really trying to focus on making sure that people can access information and services when they need it at times that are convenient to them because we know that while it’s great having the call center, you know, having email, having letters, you know, at times like I think about myself where it’s like I just like to try to log on and do it myself. And so we’re really excited about being able to have  those features in the system  for the for individuals but also  and we haven’t quite rolled it out yet, but we are starting to  starting to  get the word out about our community partner portal. So that way, if you’re somebody who works a lot  with clients or with individuals who are interested in services at DHS,  you can actually sign up and get your own log in  and be able to help those clients as they go through that process because we know that, you know, some of us, it’s, it’s easy to hop on there and find the information other times, you know, we all need help. Right? And so having a trusted partner that they can go in and help them find information or upload information,  you know, we think that’s an important feature of the new system as well.

MR: Definitely. I love hearing that it’s user friendly because sometimes when you think about government user friendly are not adjectives that typically are at top of mind.

JS: Of course when I say user friendly, somebody might get on there and say, well, I don’t know. It’s certainly more friendly than it was.

DS: There’s always room for improvement. We’ve got lots of really good feedback  as we’ve been doing some demos and  and having particularly our Medicaid client voice Council do some pilots of the program. And so it’s been great. I mean, you know, they’ll definitely be things that we need to change and update over time, but it’s just, it’s so nice to be able to have those features and functional available for folks to be able to, to do what makes sense for them  and to be able to  to update their information.

MR: Definitely. Ok, Dawn is there anything else you’d like to add?

DS: No, I just really appreciate being able to be here today and talk a little bit about the exciting work that we do together and glad to have a chance to sit down and chat. You know, we don’t often get to do that.

JS: That’s true. We get to catch up a little bit.

MR: And john same to you. Anything else that you would like to add.

JS: No, this is great. I appreciate it, and Dawn thank you for coming.

MR: Well thank you both for being here and thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.