When Pennsylvania launches its Community HealthChoices (CHC) program for older adults and individuals with disabilities over the next few years, it will join a growing number of states shifting to managed care plans to provide long-term services and supports (MLTSS) to Medicaid beneficiaries. Up to 450,000 Pennsylvanians could eventually be enrolled in CHC. So far, Medicaid MLTSS has had mixed results around the country. If implemented well, MLTSS has the potential to provide better, more coordinated care. But there are also risks that its implementation could interrupt care, cut vital services and squeeze out community providers. Two things are certain though: there are many lessons to be learned from states that have already implemented MLTSS programs; and these programs can only be successful with meaningful input and feedback from the communities they serve.

The Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation was honored to be invited by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to travel to Pittsburgh last week to lead a day-long training for community and consumer groups aimed at helping them prepare for and engage in the launch of CHC in Southwest Pennsylvania. Over 50 people from a variety of organizations, most of whom work with and advocate for older adults and people with disabilities, attended the training.

We started off the day with an overview of best practices from around the country for consumer-centered MLTSS implementation using a Community Catalyst-designed tool. Then we moved into detailed discussions around four topics: successful beneficiary communications; smooth transitions of care; ensuring network adequacy; and building meaningful consumer engagement. We were joined by three dynamic guest speakers – Bill Henning from the Boston Center for Independent living (pictured with Alice Dembner of Community Catalyst), Larke Recchie from the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Marisa Scala-Foley from the Administration for Community Living. During small group brainstorming sessions, participants shared their ideas on how to make consumer engagement in CHC as meaningful as possible, and what can be done to identify, recruit and support consumers who want to become involved.

There is much to do in preparation for CHC’s launch next summer. We are grateful to the staff of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation for their commitment to making sure CHC will be as successful as possible. We look forward to continuing to work with the foundation and advocates throughout Pennsylvania to support them in shaping this program.