CVS Health’s Aetna health insurance unit is rolling out a new program for seniors in Medicare Advantage plans to address their loneliness, which can lead to poor health outcomes and an array of illnesses, studies and those involved say.
The program Aetna is launching next year with Miami-based Papa Inc., which links seniors with college-aged caregivers, offers a snapshot into health insurer efforts to think outside the box when they address social determinants of health, which can range from food insecurity to homelessness or loneliness and isolation.
“Loneliness and social isolation have many negative effects on older adults, including issues associated with the lack of transportation,” said Papa chief executive officer Andrew Parker, who founded the company in 2017 as a way to support seniors and their families, the company’s web site says.
Papa says it connects “college students to older adults who need assistance with transportation, house chores, technology lessons, companionship, and other senior services.” Financial terms of the collaboration between Aetna and Papa weren’t disclosed in Wednesday’s announcement.
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Aetna rivals, including Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are also working to address social determinants of health including loneliness and isolation. And Papa has relationships with a growing list of health insurers that sell Medicare Advantage including Humana, WellCare Health Plans and Alignment Healthcare.
Initially, the effort with Aetna will be available to certain Medicare Advantage health plan enrollees who live in Florida “and have one or more chronic conditions” who will be able to receive assistance via “Papa Pals” beginning in January of 2020.
“We launched in Jan 2018 and now have over 5,000 Papa Pals providing services in 15 states,” Parker said. “We have grown over 3,000% from 2018 to 2019.”
Aetna, which has more than 2.3 million Medicare Advantage enrollees across the country, will be evaluating the program to see whether it reduces costs and improves health outcomes for possible expansion to other markets.
More broadly, CVS Health and Aetna are working on ways to address social determinants of health in the Medicare population where seniors are known to have multiple chronic conditions. CVS earlier this year announced a partnership to link health plan members to “social providers” like community organizations or a nutritionist.
In addition to the program with Papa, Aetna is also rolling out a “Social Isolation Index” to determine a senior Medicare Advantage “member’s risk of social isolation” by analyzing health claims data and other information. Those identified will get “proactive outreach from specially-trained consultants” within a new “Resources for Living” program.
“Social connection is a critical determinant of health for most people, but particularly for the Medicare population,” said Dr. Robert Mirsky, chief medical officer for Aetna Medicare. “We want our Medicare beneficiaries to be able to care for themselves or have reliable support, to be safe in their homes and communities and to lead fulfilling lives. Helping our Medicare beneficiaries in this manner not only improves their quality of life, it can also delay the development and progression of chronic conditions.”