COVID-19 vaccine distribution has accelerated across states as the Biden Administration updates its vaccine goal to 200 million doses by April 23, 2021 and many states are opening eligibility to all adults by early April. The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) recently spoke with several state Medicaid officials to learn more about how their agencies – and specifically their Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) – are leveraging partnerships and data to advance their vaccination efforts.
To improve coordination, Medicaid agency officials participate in, and sometimes lead, weekly meetings with state and county officials to update them about the latest vaccine progress. They have also worked with state and county officials to identify and share data about Medicaid enrollees to enable improved targeting of high-risk, and/or priority populations for outreach by state and local authorities. Medicaid agencies have also shared data about provider networks to aid vaccine administration efforts. Specifically, data has been used to recruit providers who are already actively engaged in serving certain populations as part of direct vaccination efforts, including as vaccine administrators at mobile vaccination sites.
Empowering Medicaid health plans encourages innovative vaccination promotion strategies.
Along with collaborating with state and local agencies, Medicaid agencies have also cultivated stronger relationships with their MCOs and other participating health plans to promote vaccinations. Several states’ officials report meeting with their health plans on a biweekly or weekly basis to share the latest updates on vaccination policy, as well as to strategize about best practices to encourage vaccination. United by a mutual goal of encouraging members toward health and away from catastrophic illness, the vaccination effort provides a unique opportunity for Medicaid to work in partnership with its health plans and encourages innovative approaches to improve vaccination rates. Some innovative strategies include:
- Distributing educational material about how to schedule appointments and appointment reminders;
- Enabling plans and plan representatives to schedule appointments on behalf of enrollees;
- Active post-vaccination outreach to assess vaccine side effects;
- Communication to family members and care takers about vaccine eligibility and access; and
- Development of training modules for care managers to address vaccine hesitancy.
Several officials especially noted the challenge of ensuring transportation to and from vaccination sites. To mitigate these issues, states have employed various methods of moderating this barrier – from providing access to free transportation services to mandating that health plans cover transportation to and from vaccination sites. One state had a policy to reimburse enrollees for miles traveled, while another worked with carriers to set a rate for transit services that included a “wait time” between arrival at and departure from the vaccination site.
Access to state data is critical to health plan participation in vaccination efforts.
Beyond sharing strategies to encourage outreach and access to vaccination sites, Medicaid agencies have played a key role in sharing critical data about Medicaid enrollees directly with MCOs or other participating carriers.
Medicaid agencies have unique access to state data sources, including Medicaid enrollment and claims data and vaccination data from public health data repositories, which is otherwise not available to private companies or other agencies. Access to this data not only positions a state Medicaid agency to take an active role in identifying enrollees to target for vaccination outreach, but it also enables it to perform analytics across data sources. For example, some states are cross-walking vaccine registry data with Medicaid data to identify Medicaid recipients who have scheduled vaccination appointments or who have been vaccinated. This ability to crosswalk data from vaccine registries is especially important, as many vaccines are scheduled and administered without an insurance claim, leaving health plans without any information about the vaccination status of their enrollees. However, armed with Medicaid data and analytics, health plans are able to conduct direct follow-up with their members. In several cases, states report active participation from health plans that are using data to encourage vaccination, including among high-risk individuals. Others go further and connect enrollees with case managers who may be able to assist with arranging transit to and from appointments or scheduling follow-ups for the second vaccine dose.
Capacity to conduct complex analytics may be limited based on states systems’ ability to extract and share data across agencies, and outdated claims processing systems may affect the timeliness of available data. Meanwhile, vaccination databases are in the midst of being brought to scale in tandem with escalating vaccination efforts, and data may not yet be fully accessible or up to date in state systems. State agencies are rapidly working to improve data capacity, including efforts to enable direct connections between carriers and providers to data sources or analytic information. One state also reported efforts to access data from border states, to ensure it had updated vaccination information even for those that may get vaccinated outside of the state.
States have and continue to rapidly adapt in response to the ever-evolving pandemic. As vaccine capacity increases, they will continue to build on their growing resources and infrastructure to address changing needs and circumstances. As they do, NASHP will report on the development of new policies and promising practices from those at the forefront of addressing the COVID-19 crisis.