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5 Ways Health Insurers are Helping Members Cope with Loneliness During COVID-19

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5 Ways Health Insurers are Helping Members Cope with Loneliness During COVID-19

Last year, we wrote about ways that health insurers are working to address loneliness. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness has become an even more important topic. In May, TIME reported that the number of American households with just one person has been consistently rising for the last 50 years. Since lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have been instated due to COVID-19, this means that face-to-face socialization is limited or non-existent for many. As a result, one-third of American adults has said that they feel lonelier than usual while social distancing.

We know that loneliness has an impact on someone’s overall physical and mental health. According to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), “loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” As a result of this, the team at Media Logic has been paying close attention to what health insurers are doing to help members cope with loneliness during COVID-19. Here are five examples that we have found along with details about these initiatives.

Aspire Health Plan addresses the physical and social wellbeing of seniors

Aspire Health Plan (client) is a Monterey County-based Medicare Advantage plan. As soon as local shelter-in-place orders went into effect, they got to work helping their members combat loneliness. Representatives made 4,000 calls to members to check on their individual needs. Their “social isolation busters” include a weekly sing-a-long with local entertainer Debbie Davis throughout April, which members called in to or accessed on Facebook, virtual book clubs and virtual Community Connections events. In addition, Aspire connected with community-based organizations such as Mom’s Meals and Community Health Innovations along with their provider network to help with services and outreach.

Banner Health Network (BHN) uses an app for loneliness interventions for vulnerable populations

Banner Health Network is an Arizona-based accountable care organization of physicians, hospitals and services. They have a separate contract to serve the state’s long-term care program and operate Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan (D-SNP), according to AIS Health’s RADAR on Medicare Advantage. Through a partnership with Pyx Health, Inc., “a mobile solution that reduces loneliness and social isolation by connecting with members outside of the traditional care setting,” they are able to connect with vulnerable, high-risk populations using an app. The app helps provide real-time loneliness interventions such as a chatbot likened to a “friend in a coffee shop” that connects and creates connections with members while also gaining insights through evidence-based screening tools.

Cigna launches pilot program to increase social connectivity of Medicare Advantage members

We’ve previously written about Cigna and how they have addressed mental health, loneliness and stress in an integrated marketing campaign and through various initiatives. Now they are launching a pilot program to reach out to Medicare Advantage members and monitor their general health and well-being along with daily needs including food housing and transportation. In addition, MA members can opt-in to receive follow up calls from Cigna representatives. Along with this outreach, Healthcare Finance reports that they will use data and analytics to identify high risk members for additional proactive outreach.

Oscar Health offers free 24/7 emotional support helpline for members, their families and friends

Oscar Health partners with Optum to offer behavioral health benefits. During this time, they are offering a toll-free emotional support helpline for members that is free of charge, and they also encourage members to share this with family and friends.

Papa’s latest initiative raises awareness of the risks of loneliness

Papa pairs college students with people who are in need of companionship and additional services including transportation, house needs, errands, grocery deliveries and more. Due to COVID-19, they’ve had to take an increasingly digital approach while also assisting seniors with grocery shopping and contact-free food deliveries. In addition, they have partnered with Humana, Uber Health, the Coalition to End Social Isolation and Loneliness and the Translational Research Institute for Space Health. The Far From Alone campaign is a timely awareness and outreach program that offers “resources and toolkits on the risks associated with loneliness and social isolation, and the difference between those two situations.” The campaign will be a springboard for “future solutions to tackle loneliness.”

There is a positive takeaway from all of this, and that is that COVID-19 has made the topic of loneliness easier to talk about. As healthcare marketers, we will continue to keep our eyes and ears on topics related to the social determinants of health and efforts made by health insurers and other healthcare organizations to help address them.

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