Nonprofit Medicare Advantage payer SCAN Health Plan has launched an initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to homebound members in partnership with the health care logistics company MedArrive. The organization began the program in Los Angeles County, Calif., and quickly expanded to Orange County in that state with near-term plans to spread into more regions.
SCAN covers more than 220,000 beneficiaries. Between 3,000 and 4,000 of those members are designated as homebound by Medicare. Through the collaboration with MedArrive, the companies are dispatching paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) from Falck/Care Ambulance Service to administer the vaccines in patient homes. The program’s EMTs are currently visiting about 20 homes per day.
“[MedArrive] leverages EMTs to provide care in the home, and they have a logistics platform,” SCAN Health Plan Chief Pharmacy Officer Sharon Jhawar told Hospice News. “Our most vulnerable members are unable to get to clinic sites. MedArrive has been helping to ensure that our routes are as optimal as possible so that the EMT folks can get as many shots in arms for our members as well as their families.”
Nearly 2 million adults older than 65 are considered homebound in the United States, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Many of these patients have multiple chronic conditions or are cognitively impaired and represent the population that is most vulnerable to COVID-19. To date, mass vaccination sites and pharmacies have been prioritized for vaccine distribution with few resources available to patients in their homes.
Some hospice providers such as Agape Care in South Carolina and Georgia-based Hospice Savannah have also taken steps to bring vaccines to their patients and communities, including in the home setting.
SCAN is providing the vaccine at no cost to members, and the health plan’s EMT partners will also administer the injections to family caregivers and other eligible individuals in the household.
A key element of this program is education for homebound beneficiaries and their families regarding the importance and safety of vaccination. SCAN and MedArrive representatives have explained to prospective recipients what they can expect during and after vaccination and are addressing their questions, with a “heavy emphasis on vaccine confidence,” according to Jhawar. They have made hundreds of calls to SCAN members during the lead up to this program.
Vaccination is critical for homebound patients despite their relative isolation.
“There are folks coming in and out of the home. Their loved ones are going out; they may have caregivers coming in and out of the house. It’s so important that they’re vaccinated, because they are the most vulnerable,” Jhawar said. “If someone brings [COVID] into the home and exposes them to COVID, they’re highly susceptible, like to be hospitalized and potentially die from the virus.”