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Human Services Secretary, Managed Care Organizations Discuss Ongoing Partnership to Ease Access, Advance Equity in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution for Vulnerable Pennsylvanians

04/06/2021

Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today joined leadership from Pennsylvania’s Community HealthChoices (CHC) managed care organizations (MCOs) to discuss their work to ease access to COVID-19 vaccines, promote equity in vaccine distribution, and address vaccine hesitancy among individuals they serve.

“As Pennsylvania continues to make progress getting vaccinating individuals across the commonwealth, we know that we must continue to work to ensure that residents who are most vulnerable to the virus are not left behind in this process,” said Secretary Miller. “Our partnership with the CHC MCOs is creating direct access to vaccines for individuals and communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. This work is keeping equity at the forefront of our vaccine distribution and will keep communities safer as we continue to make progress against this virus.”

CHC, which was launched statewide by DHS in January 2020, coordinates services, supports, and daily care for seniors and people with physical disabilities who are eligible for Medical Assistance – two populations vulnerable to serious complications if they contract COVID-19. CHC was designed to give older Pennsylvanians and people with disabilities who prefer to live in their own home among their family, peers, and community the supports and services they need to do so safely, rather than a long-term care facility. The program covers approximately 350,000 people statewide and is administered across the commonwealth by three MCOs – AmeriHealth Caritas, PA Health & Wellness, and UPMC CHC.

“The Pennsylvanians served by CHC are among those at greatest risk from COVID-19, but also face some of the most challenging barriers to vaccination. Addressing these disparities creates a bridge to compassionate care that can help improve Community HealthChoices participants’ health outcomes and help get Pennsylvania through this pandemic faster,” said AmeriHealth Caritas Senior Vice President of Long-Term Services and Supports Stephan Roker. “We are proud to support this collaborative effort to help all participants who want to be vaccinated.”

Last month, the Wolf Administration announced a partnership with the three MCOs and Rite Aid Pharmacy to vaccinate 9,000 individuals enrolled both in CHC and the Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE) Program. This effort targeted vaccinations to populations served by these programs helps Pennsylvania reach communities that have a significant risk of complications if they contract COVID-19 but may not have the resources to secure an appointment or travel to a vaccination site on their own. These vaccination clinics prioritized individuals based upon participants’ risk of contracting COVID-19 and focused on reaching communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. Preliminary data shows that about two-thirds of CHC participants served through these clinics are people of color. 

“PA Health and Wellness is proud to be a partner with the Administration in this significant step to get older Pennsylvanians and those with disabilities who depend on our care vaccinated,” said PA Health and Wellness President and CEO Justin Davis. “PHW is transforming the health of the community one person at a time. Nothing demonstrates this more than our collaboration with the Office of Long-Term Living, Rite Aid and the other Community HealthChoices MCOs to ensure our participants have access to this critical vaccine.”

Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam also recently signed an order directing the CHC MCOs along with physical health MCOs and Area Agencies on Aging to work with vaccine providers to help schedule Pennsylvanians eligible under Phase 1A of Pennsylvania’s vaccination plan. This order builds off the MCOs’ on the initial vaccine clinics to help enrollees find a vaccine appointment, coordinate transportation if needed to ease barriers to getting vaccinated, and address hesitancy or questions that may exist about vaccines available. This continued partnership will also help Pennsylvania continue to strive for an equitable vaccine distribution by making direct outreach and easing access for individuals covered through our Medical Assistance programs, which primarily covers lower income Pennsylvanians.   

“We at UPMC Health Plan share DHS’s commitment to easing access for those who may not be as well-resourced to obtain vaccines on their own, especially those in communities most affected by COVID,” said Brendan Harris, Vice President, UPMC Community HealthChoices, and Chair, Pennsylvania CHC Coalition.  “UPMC Community HealthChoices know our members’ health-related needs better than anyone – and are therefore well equipped to identify unvaccinated members, have our award-winning health care concierges reach out to schedule appointments and, if necessary, coordinate transportation.”

Since December 2020, more than 5.7 million Pennsylvanians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including more than 1.6 million people over age 65. More than 2 million Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated. For more information on COVID-19 vaccinations, visit the Department of Health’s website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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