This summer I completed my Health Administration internship at Meridian Health Plan in downtown Detroit, Michigan. During the course of my internship I worked on the Medicare Enrollment team. The Medicare Enrollment team is responsible for processing daily and monthly files received by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as well as working as a department liaison with other areas of the business. The members of this team work alongside Enrollment Coordinators to ensure enrollment and disenrollment timeframes are met for all Medicare lines of businesses at Meridian. This team’s overlying focus is to accurately and timely support their members to ensure Medicare enrollment and member retention while working in accordance with CMS. Meridian is constantly growing in this department as they slowly become more familiar with the Medicare line of business. When I entered the team in May there were seven employees working together in separate roles to complete the daily tasks of Medicare enrollment.
During my internship, I learned about the many benefits and challenges associated with Medicare. Since it was established in 1965, Medicare eligible patrons have experienced cases of fraud and abuse. Examples of such cases are incorrectly coding procedures, providing expensive and unnecessary procedures, upcoding services and billing for services that were never provided. These cases have created dozens of laws and procedures for when it comes to marketing to the Medicare eligible population.
The need to remain compliant with CMS yielded dozens of learning opportunities for me. They allowed me to shadow everyone in the department several times to learn more about what they individually do. They also gave me dozens of different tasks and projects to complete. The tasks and projects came with timelines, critical thinking components and serious learning outcomes. I learned so much from helping my team by being able to be hands on and help them. These opportunities to help them complete the daily tasks that can add up to more than a normal day’s worth of work gave me a purpose within the team. It also allowed me to help the newer members of the team as they joined during the duration of my internship.
With opportunities, came challenges. What I thought I knew about healthcare was just a fraction of the vast world of a health plan. The first thing I noticed is that people speak in code. There are thousands of acronyms, documents, letters and, codes used every day. At first, this was very overwhelming. Mixing the vernacular of both the department and the business was a lot to digest. I had to quickly learn to keep a journal and write questions down so they could be answered later. I also had to learn how to keep all everything straight.
Another challenge I faced was feeling like I was not important because I was an intern. Before entering Meridian, I was told that as an intern I can be a burden on the business. I felt like I would not be able to make much of a difference because I would only be in the department for a limited time. This preconceived idea was soon squashed when my team lead told me I was making a difference. For any challenge that I did face along the way, there was always my very supportive team behind me. During my internship with the Enrollment team, I became an asset to the team for when they needed help.
My internship also taught me the importance of setting goals. Setting goals is very important. They not only keep the internship program on track but it also gave my supervisor a valuable resource when assigning projects and tasks. I set several goals that I planned to accomplish during my time at Meridian. My first goal while interning at Meridian was to create a Medicare Enrollment training manual for internal transfers and future student interns. This goal was accomplished to the best of my ability. It takes a lot of work from inside and outside of the department to gather the materials to properly educate a transfer on the department. In order to collect, create and distribute the materials it took not only the Medicare Enrollment team but also Medicare Operations as a whole, departmental and corporate trainers and past materials. The second objective for this goal was to create an introduction binder equip with notes, PowerPoints, tasks and learning objectives. These materials were all created, saved in a folder and organized. I believe I completed this goal to best of my ability. Materials will always need to change or be updated but my hard work created a very strong shell for future trainings. I believe that this left a meaningful impact on my team. By completing as much as I could from the Medicare Enrollment side they are now able to train future employees efficiently and effectively.
My second goal was to present to subject matter experts on the Michigan Health Insurance Exchange. The Meridian internship program assigned groups of interns different important health related topics to research, analyze and present to peers, supervisors, directors and executives. My group received the task of researching competitors in Michigan and how Meridian Choice can expand. This was my favorite project completed during my internship. They gave me a topic that I did not know very much about and I was able to successfully expand my knowledge. My first objective was to analyze competition in Michigan compared to Michigan. For this objective I went above and beyond. I learned much more than I ever expected to. I became familiar with the past and present news on the Affordable Care Act. I read journals, news reports, articles and other analyses of the marketplace. I learned about competition in Michigan as well as across the country. I analyzed and found metropolitan areas and states with the most potential to expand to for all lines of business. I was able to find over 2.8 million potential members that are in need of coverage solely on the exchange. Team work was essential in this project. My second objective was to assign members on an intern pre-assigned group different tasks to research and present. With none of us being fully confident on our knowledge of the health exchange, we needed to break up the work to learn as much as we could in the few weeks we had until we presented. This project was broken up into five sections. We introduced the Health Insurance Exchange and explained how many competitors were on the whole market and Michigan’s. I explained what the Affordable Care Act is, when it was enacted, why they enacted it and the goals of the act. Another group member analyzed the target markets and how to get them involved with our plan. One member analyzed what the competitors in Michigan are doing well and where they are not doing well. The other two members split up researching how to improve Meridian Choice’s benefits, member services and plan as a whole. When it finally came to presentation day we were ready. Over twenty people showed up to watch us which included the entire Exchange team. This was the first time the entire team, which included the Executive Director of Operations- State Exchange, had shown up to a presentation. Everyone spoke clearly and knowledgably since we had spent the last month devoting a lot of time to learning about the exchange. Our presentation went smoothly. To wrap up the presentation we engaged our audience in a Kahoot game. This allowed them to interactively test their knowledge and compete against each other for prizes.
When I first started at Meridian, I was not sure what to expect. I was not sure if I would really be assigned any difficult projects or even any projects in general. During the course of my internship I was assigned several significant projects that benefited Meridian and the Medicare Enrollment team.
The first project they had us complete was a market analysis. This project helped the Exchange Operations team as they get ready for the next annual enrollment period. It involved hours of research and meetings to correctly present this material.
Another meaningful project they had us complete was the “buddy” program. The buddy program was designed to set-up a full time employee with an intern to help the intern learn more about the company. The pairs did not know each other and they came from different departments. Each week the development team challenged the pair to complete a different task such as an interview and a review of each other’s resumes. This project helped me to learn much more about the Meridian RX side because my buddy is the Operations lead.
By incorporating all of these projects into the internship, I believe I had a better experience. These projects inside and outside of my department allowed me to expand my knowledge of the company and interact with different people. I interacted with people I would not have normally worked with. I learned more about their experience with Meridian. The projects also helped me grow and develop in a professional work setting. Going from the university setting to the professional world can be a hard transition. By being challenged to meet with many members of the organization and other interns, the transition became very easy.
My internship experience was an overall beneficial experience that showed me direction for my future career. As I wrapped up my experience, it was hard to say goodbye to the friends I made. Meridian gave me a very memorable summer and vast knowledge about the health insurance plan field.