The Illinois Department of Public Health today (Wednesday, March 31, 2021) announced a pilot initiative that leverages health plans to reduce COVID-19 vaccination disparities with a focus on seniors 65 years and older in the most vulnerable communities.
The Vaccine Community Connectors program is sponsored by America’s Health Insurance Program and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and is a collaboration between health plans and the State of Illinois to help provide vaccine outreach, scheduling, and transportation for the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“Prioritizing equity has been a critical component in every phase of the state’s vaccine administration plan. In particular, we have intentionally set aside allocations of vaccine for providers in communities with a high social vulnerability index and have engaged with community partners to provide vaccinations in a way that is accessible by local communities,” Gov. JB Pritzker said today in a news release. “Through this public-private partnership, the first of its kind in the nation, we will be able to better coordinate resources and provider more efficient vaccine access for our seniors.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said she excited about the public-private partnerships that have been built – now including the Vaccine Community Connectors program.
“As the vaccine has rolled out, we have prioritized our older residents and focused on equity,” she said. “Our continued collaboration with our private partners can help us move forward in this endeavor and help save lives.”
“Throughout the pandemic, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services has worked with our managed care health plans to ensure Medicaid customers across all communities in Illinois could access testing, treatment and ultimately, vaccines, as well as new and innovative ways to improve access to health care and critical related services,” said Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Theresa Eagleson.”The Vaccine Community Connectors initiative will advance those efforts and extend an opportunity to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens to receive protection from COVID-19.”
Participating health plans, supported by AHIP, BCBSA, Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans, and Illinois Life and Health Insurance Council (ILHIC) will partner in the following ways:
- Identify seniors who live in vulnerable communities who are members of participating plans who have not yet been vaccinated.
- Work with the state and community partners to educate seniors on the safety, efficacy, and value of the vaccine.
- Leverage health plan care coordinators to contact those individuals to facilitate appointment scheduling and answer questions.
- Coordinate services to overcome barriers that may stand between those individuals and getting vaccinated, including transportation.
- Work with state leaders to deliver vaccines to underserved communities.
- Track and report on progress on a deidentified aggregate basis.
The state of Illinois, supported by vaccine providers, will partner in the following ways:
- Reserve weekly appointment slots at mass vaccination sites for the plans to schedule vulnerable seniors.
- Provide health plans with links into the state’s mass vaccination site scheduling systems to schedule members.
- Provide weekly access to data / analytics to support plan outreach and identify target ZIP codes where seniors have not been vaccinated.
- As available, respond to requests for state mobile teams.
SOURCE: state of Illinois news release