RISE looks at the latest news regarding social determinants of health (SDoH), including recent approaches from Medicaid programs.

Ohio Medicaid introduces caller program to reduce loneliness amid the holidays

The Ohio Department of Medicaid launched a “friendly caller” program for residents in long-term care facilities, according to an article published by Modern Healthcare. The program will connect residents with volunteers for 30-minute phone calls two times a week to provide social and emotional support. Ohio Medicaid, Ohio’s five Medicaid managed care organizations, and the state’s Area Agencies on Aging will partner to make the volunteer and resident pairings.

The program, which began in November, will run through the holidays due to the anticipated increase in loneliness and depression. "Research shows us that the holidays are an emotionally challenging time for those residing in shared living facilities, a reality exacerbated by months of social distancing and limited interaction with loved ones," said Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran in a statement. "We also know that depression can accelerate physical deterioration. This initiative gets to the heart of the matter by offering consistent, caring and highly interpersonal connections that are needed now and throughout the holidays ahead."

Volunteers will be trained on how to provide companionship over the phone and how to identify residents who may need further assistance. The program will be available to nursing homes or assisted living facilities with at least 50 residents who receive services from Ohio Medicaid managed care programs.

Aetna pilot program uses pharmacies to improve members’ social determinants

In a new pilot program through the HealthTag initiative, Aetna will now offer additional resources to members through pharmacy visits.

In partnership with its parent company’s pharmacy, Aetna will work with CVS pharmacies to provide members with information beyond their medication instructions inside their prescription bags, including community services to address food insecurities, housing, or transportation, according to a recent Fierce Healthcare article.

The network of organizations is supported by the social care coordination program, Unite Us.

The pilot programs will launch at CVS pharmacies in West Virginia and Louisiana.

Report sheds light on Medicaid program approaches that address SDoH

A recent report released by Manatt Health found a significant number of Medicaid programs now pursue SDoH. The analysis reviewed Medicaid managed care contracts and section 1115 demonstration waivers from October 2019 and June 2020.

The report details how states use their Medicaid managed care contracts and 1115 waivers to address unmet social needs and drive innovation in this space, Manatt Health said in a study announcement. Through an in-depth review of the contracts of each state and territory with Medicaid managed care (41 in total), Manatt identified the provisions and subsequent intervention methods related to SDoH, and categorized them by type of service or intervention (e.g., screening and referral requirements, quality metrics); targeted populations (e.g., pregnant women, children, people experiencing homelessness); and targeted domains (e.g., housing, food/nutrition, employment).

Researchers found many Medicaid programs and their Medicaid managed care organizations incorporated SDoH into their care management, with 27 states conducting SDoH screening, 37 states connecting beneficiaries with social services, and 35 states referring members to social services.

Additionally, 23 states partnered with community-based organizations, a key component to best address members’ social needs, reported Healthpayer Intelligence. Mannatt Health Director Naomi Newman said in the announcement that the report serves as a “resource for states, health plans, provider organizations and other stakeholders looking to improve overall health for their most vulnerable populations.”