Man buried in returned mail

The UAA Mail Problem: Still Here

In every mailroom, there invariably lurks a pile of returned mail the Postal Service could not deliver. This issue, termed UAA (Undeliverable as Addressed) mail by the US Postal Service, usually pertains to First Class mail pieces returned to the sender (the USPS destroys undeliverable Marketing mail unless the mailer has requested otherwise).


Being First Class mail, the contents of the returned envelopes are important. Resources were deployed and money was spent to produce and mail the items. The organization would like their bills, statements, or important notices to reach their customers. Regrettably, mail centers habitually stack this undeliverable mail in trays, pushing it to the side, and waiting for a time when someone is free to sort it out — a time which never seems to arrive.


We’ve covered the challenges of dealing with returned mail before in this blog with articles such as:

Finally Fix the Returned Mail Problem
How to Finally Deal with Returned Mail
Why Mail Centers Avoid Dealing with Returned Mail

Based on conversations with Tritek customers, we can see the returned mail problem still exists. In some cases, it’s getting worse and, in a few instances, the returned mail issue has become a full-fledged crisis. State health departments, in particular, currently find themselves buried under an unprecedented volume of UAA mail they can no longer ignore.


Other organizations may not be facing the same challenges as the health departments, but this situation is a good example of how events can change things in a hurry, and it could happen again. Next time, it may affect your industry. Highly regulated businesses such as healthcare, insurance, and financial services are vulnerable, as they can be compelled to follow new rules and laws that govern their efforts to communicate with customers.


How would your organization fare if you needed to write to thousands of people that had not received mail from you for several years? Much of that mail would probably come back to you. You would have to scramble to locate these people, correct their postal addresses, and re-mail the information.

Why the Sudden Increase?
91 million people are qualified to receive Medicaid benefits. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates indicate that 5 to 14 million individuals may lose their coverage across the nation because of Medicaid unwinding.


Medicaid unwinding is a process where states withdraw Medicaid benefits from recipients. This occurs when a recipient is deemed no longer eligible for the benefits. During the COVID pandemic, the government suspended a requirement for individuals to re-qualify for Medicaid benefits periodically, but the waiver period has now expired. The Federal government has required the states to contact all their Medicaid enrollees.


State health departments are now sending application materials to the enrollees. The states obviously want to stop providing benefits to individuals who no longer qualify for the aid.


The problem is the health departments have not maintained contact with Medicaid enrollees. Many times, the last known address for an individual was updated in 2019. You might see how that can be an issue:

  1. People may have moved (some several times)
  2. Some people have died
  3. Some have increased their income to a level that disqualifies them for Medicaid
  4. A percentage of Medicaid enrollees is somewhat transient and may lack permanent addresses

Regulatory Requirements for State Health Departments
The task of locating Medicaid enrollees and documenting the search efforts falls to state health departments. This process is governed by a set of regulatory requirements, which consider an array of factors and complexities. The process of handling undeliverable mail and successfully distributing critical medical information includes the same steps any organization would take to attack their UAA mail backlog:

  1. Maintain Accurate Records: State health departments are tasked with maintaining correct and up-to-date records of Medicaid enrollees. Any changes in the enrollee’s contact information or status should be promptly updated to avoid returned mail. This maintenance duty is a continuous process and pivotal to the overall management of Medicaid enrollment.
  2. Initiate Location Attempts: If mail is returned, state health departments must carry out a systematic process to locate the enrollees. This involves various strategies, including cross-referencing with the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) file and other databases, reaching out to known associates or relatives, or even collaborating with private location services.
  3. Document Efforts Thoroughly: Every attempt to locate a Medicaid enrollee should be thoroughly documented for accountability and future reference. This includes details about the chosen strategy, steps taken, the response received, and how any subsequent action was performed, ensuring a transparent paper trail.

 

Adherence to these requirements is not just a matter of formality, procedure, or compliance, but an obligation rooted in an ethical commitment to provide continual health coverage to eligible individuals. While Medicaid unwinding plays a part in the returned mail crunch, the solutions to address this problem are within reach. Adopt modern technology, revamp communication processes, and keep recipient databases up to date – these changes will not only reduce the onslaught of returned mail but also significantly improve mailing efficiency.

 

Human Labor is Not the Answer

Using human labor to handle the challenge of returned mail is futile – especially when volumes swell. In a time when companies are dealing with the daunting task of filling vacant positions, assigning employees to address the issues of returned mail is frequently not an option.

  • Organizations initially taking a manual approach soon confront the manpower demands necessary to tackle this lengthy project.

  • Employees devote time and effort to UAA mail only until other departmental needs arise, causing the project to grind to a halt.

  • Interrupted and neglected, the process picks up intermittently whenever a window of availability emerges. With each passing delay, the piles of UAA mail continue to grow.

 

The only practical solution lies in automation. Automated processes allow mail centers to manage UAA mail continuously, thereby effectively addressing and resolving this enduring problem.

 

Automation to the Rescue

Tritek’s Return Mail Solution has been helping organizations take on the UAA mail problem for years.

One of the foremost challenges that emerge when amplifying the efficacy of returned mail handling through an automated approach is accommodating the physical variability of the mailpieces. The feeding and scanning hardware must accept any mail form, size, or thickness. Tritek’s feeding and transport systems will handle all types of returned mail, be it letters, postcards, self-mailers, brochures, or flats.

 

Cameras strategically positioned on the Tritek system obtain essential data from each mailpiece. The collected data includes specifics like the sending and return addresses, USPS reason-for-return stickers, permit numbers, and so on. Such data capture can be tricky, as details may be printed on either face of the mailpiece or in inconsistent orientation. However, the proven competence of the Tritek camera and data capture system ensures gathering of all relevant information from the mix of mail.

 

Software deployed by Tritek uses customizable business rules to segregate mailpieces by department. These processes also include referencing resources such as the USPS National Change of Address file. Assessments made by the software rely on information sources that can range from logos, tag lines, or any other information presented on the mailpieces.

 

It is crucial that the software and processing speed keep pace with the transport mechanism. The Tritek returned mail solution deposits the UAA mailpieces in the stipulated output bins. This enables the mail center staff to expedite mail delivery to the respective internal departments for further research and address correction in the customer databases.

 

Fix This Problem Now

As we have seen with the Medicare unwinding situation, failing to implement a system to process returned mail and correct addresses can catch organizations flat-footed and unprepared to deal with new needs and requirements. The standard operating procedure in many mail centers is to simply ignore the UAA mail. They lack the manpower and time necessary to ensure their organizations are ready, should new needs arise. The answer for most organizations is automation.

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