The federal Lifeline program provides discounted telephone services for low income people and was first introduced by the Reagan administration. In 2008, the Bush administration expanded Lifeline to cover wireless, and the program grew to reach more than 11 million people. Earlier this year, the FCC set new standards that include broadband, and soon every Medicaid household will have access to a smartphone, data and voice allowance–free of charge.
Lifeline has evolved for a reason: to provide low income people with access to jobs, education and health care. When you think about it, it’s hard to understand how individuals could achieve success in these areas without something as basic as a phone.
What does this have to do with Medicaid? Medicaid health plans retain members for an average of 8 ½ months. On top of that Medicaid plans generally don’t have good contact information for members which makes it difficult to achieve cost and quality goals in this short period of time. That’s where the convergence of Lifeline and Medicaid comes in.
Imagine an intake process where every new Medicaid beneficiary is offered a smartphone with a free allowance for data, texts and voice; where that intake process collects member consent to send messages about their health; where the phone helps them find an in-network provider, complete a health assessment, chat with a nurse, have a video consultation with a doctor, access their personal health record, and keep their account for life.
Voxiva pioneered the “health phone” in 2012, combining Lifeline with personalized text message reminders about health. Since then, we have reached over 1 million Medicaid beneficiaries. In 2017 we are broadening our capabilities to take advantage of Lifeline’s expansion with a focus on helping low income people access care–we call it Wellpass.