Letting go: What you should know about Health Forward’s trust-based Medicaid re-enrollment campaign


During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nationally elected officials prohibited states from taking Medicaid health coverage away from participants unless they moved, died, or asked to stop participating in the program. After a three-year pause, the national public health emergency wrapped up, and, in 2023, Kansas and Missouri resumed efforts to remove Medicaid participants who may not have been aware they needed to renew their coverage.  

As was to be expected, thousands of Kansas and Missouri residents lost health coverage for various reasons, including problems with paperwork or misunderstanding the steps in process. 

We knew this was a likely outcome, and that someone needed to do something. To address this injustice and ensure people retained access to the lifesaving health care they deserve, we launched an innovative public information campaign designed to elevate the ideas and perspectives of our community partners while minimizing a more prescriptive approach many funders have used in the past. We took a trust-based approach, meaning we aimed to allow for open collaboration that didn’t come from a place of compliance and control.

We know our community partners are trusted voices in our community, and that they were in the best position to reach the people who needed this information. The variety of services they provide created multiple opportunities to reach people, including through safety net clinics, people with relationships to families with children, community organizers, the faith community, and those providing direct services for unhoused people.

A one-size-fits- all approach would not have matched each organization’s unique audience or communication needs. So, we collaborated with GPS Influence, a local strategic communication firm, to provide adaptive support for our partners as they spread the news. This included pre-packaged marketing materials, Canva design templates, and cohesive messaging in both Spanish and English.  

At this point, we let our partners get to work while we got out of the way.

We’re extremely proud of this trust-based approach. And we believe this campaign can serve as a model for other funders looking to share power with their grantees, co-design campaigns, and instill trust into their partnerships.


Here’s what we learned from this campaign. 

Streamline your application process. 

For this campaign, we had a pretty good idea of who to reach out to. We collaborated with nearly two dozen trusted community partners, and many of these organizations had worked with us on an enrollment campaign when Medicaid was newly expanded in Missouri (from fall 2021 to Spring 2022).

We knew these organizations have a lot of trust within our communities of focus. Because we wanted to get to work quickly, we created a streamlined application process that would get things moving and not create a lot of work for our partners.

Provide easy-to-use communication materials and messaging. 

Our partners appreciated the turnkey aspect, and the materials facilitated outreach in multiple languages, emphasizing the importance of accessible and adaptable support. We provided templates with space for our partners to add their own logos and branding so their audiences would know the message was being communicated through a trusted source.

Select the right communications firm for the job. A willingness to share power is key. 

GPS Influence bought into the trust-based approach from the start and proved themselves to be active listeners and willing to engage in day-to-day project support without dictating content. 

GPS Influence provided valuable project management, and our partner organizations appreciated how their approach allowed them to focus on their organizational strengths. 

Check-in meetings allowed for collaboration, brainstorming, and networking 

GPS Influence facilitated a bi-weekly call for our partners to check-in, answer questions, and assess how things were going. This was an ideal way to collect real-time campaign feedback and figure out if there were additional opportunities to support re-enrollment efforts. 

Collect feedback through a guided conversation 

Rather than having participants complete a report that took valuable time away from them doing essential work, we gathered people together for an interactive conversation about their experiences. We had a brief virtual call where we had pre-sent questions for people to consider and then in both large and small group settings, had people reflect on the grant. Having grantees think through what was learned in a group yields insights more valuable than being done alone – many of which fuel this case study and you can read below.

A few things our partners said they would do differently next time 

Increase organizational capacity before the campaign

Because of the campaign, our partner organizations received increased calls and requests for in-person meetings. If they were to do it again, they said they would proactively plan to increase their capacity ahead of the campaign, including hiring staff and creating a clear process for a surge in requests. 

Build a more proactive event strategy 

Our partners shared that a successful tactic was sharing campaign materials at their events, but many of these events were already planned and organized and weren’t specific to the campaign.  

The key learning shared was to plan proactively rather than reactively, creating more campaign-specific outreach events within a short time period. 

Better internal coordination  

Our partners shared the need for improved internal coordination between the behind-the-scenes strategic thinkers working on the campaign and their external-facing teammates who were meeting with community members. 

Focus on gaining more news coverage 

Our partner organizations identified a challenging media environment with not much interest from reporters. They wished there was more support offered to help spread the word through mainstream news and media outlets.

Final thoughts and impact

This collaborative campaign exemplifies the power of trust-based partnerships. Ultimately, about half of our partner organizations reported on results (because we didn’t require anything). From what was reported, 9,305 people were assisted in applying, receiving, or renewing their health coverage, and 27,600 people were directly contacted to raise awareness.

We saw tremendous performance through our paid media advertising with more than 1,855,900 impressions across all platforms including programmatic video, display ads, Google search, and Facebook.

The GPS team also created a landing page for our website that served as a hub of information about how to renew Medicaid coverage and which local health centers were available for in-person assistance. The landing page was promoted on all flyers and palm cards, and was the destination for our paid advertising, including bus wraps. From late July through October 1, the page had 4,895 views from 3,169 unique users.

The lessons we learned underscore the importance of sharing power, effective communication, and flexibility in responding to community needs. As we reflect on this experience, we encourage other funders to embrace a trust-based approach that goes beyond financial support, creating space for grantees to lead and succeed.

More examples of campaign assets