Payers team up to vaccinate older Americans in underserved communities  

A group of health insurers are joining forces to help get older Americans in underserved communities vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine.

Members of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national payer association, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, a federation of 35 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies, announced Wednesday the launch of the Vaccine Community Connectors pilot initiative.

The initiative will focus on vaccinating 2 million Americans, older than 65 and living in at-risk communities.

“Improving health equity means setting important goals, removing barriers to better care, and meeting people where they are,” said Tonya Adams, national spokesperson for the Vaccine Community Connectors program and chief customer experience officer at Regence BlueCross BlueShield, in a news release.

People 65 and older accounted for more than half (54%) of all those who had received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose as of Feb. 25, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. But among the 33 states and the District of Columbia that report vaccinations by age, only South Carolina and Washington report both age and race/ethnicity.

So, for the initiative, the payers plan to combine their expertise and data to identify seniors living in areas where there are high vaccination inequity rates. They will use their enrollee data and analytics, along with government resources such as the Social Vulnerability Index, to identify one-fourth of the most vulnerable communities in the country. The index, used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, takes into account 15 social factors, including socioeconomic status, minority status and language, and transportation.

The insurance providers will combine data from the index with other information, like vaccination histories and the prevalence of chronic conditions, to customize immunization efforts. For example, some communities may benefit from a mobile clinic, while others may need interpreters.

Vaccine registration and scheduling is another hurdle for older Americans living in vulnerable areas, and so the payers involved in the initiative will help seniors with this as well.

But identifying and registering eligible seniors, and helping get vaccine resources to their areas, is just one half of the puzzle. The insurers must also contend with the hesitancy to get the vaccine in the first place. In a December survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 15% of Americans 65 years and older said they would probably or definitely not get the Covid-19 vaccine.

As part of the initiative, the payers will partner with community organizations to educate seniors on the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines.

The insurance providers eventually plan to expand the initiative to include younger age groups, said Kristine Grow, senior vice president of communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans, in an email.

“As vaccine supply becomes more available, we intend to continue to work together with federal, state and local leaders, and other vaccination partners, including pharmacies, to support continued efforts to vaccinate all of the communities we serve, and all Americans, as quickly and efficiently as possible to overcome the Covid-19 crisis,” she said.

Photo:, Getty Images

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