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Supplemental Benefits Programs Address SDOH Needs & Care Gaps




This blog post is authored in collaboration with the team at Uber Health

The Medicare member landscape

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are a robust and rapidly growing segment of the Medicare marketplace. Of all Medicare enrollees, 48% are covered by MA plans (28.4 million of a total 58.6 million enrollees), and by 2025 it’s expected that 50% of all Medicare enrollees will be in MA plans.

Older adults are increasingly looking for flexible plan offerings to match their unique circumstances. 99.9% of MA plans include supplemental benefits for health-related services like dental, vision, fitness, hearing, delivery of groceries, OTC medication, and non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), and these benefits are increasingly used as levers for attracting and retaining MA members. 

The links between SDOH needs and care gaps

Research shows that older adults have a wide variety of social determinant of health (SDOH) needs that impact their quality of life and well-being:

  • 51% have at least one SDOH need that negatively affects their health and well-being (such as food, financial resources, risk of fall, and transportation).
  • 50% of older adults living alone cannot afford to pay for their basic needs.
  • Many older adults don’t have access to reliable or convenient public transportation, but 50% want a bus stop within a mile of where they live, and 25% wish they had a subway or train station close by.

Uber Health and DUOS have teamed up to address transportation as a key SDOH and a critical solution to helping people get to the care they need. As a digital health company focused on helping older adults age independently and stay connected, the team here at DUOS completes a comprehensive care-navigation and social-needs assessment for each older adult we serve.

A key takeaway from these assessments: the majority of DUOS enrollees who have not completed an annual wellness visit (AWV) or similar critical-care action lack reliable transportation and financial resources while also struggling with frailty. Not surprisingly, many older adults also suffer from multiple social barriers. 

Source: DUOS consultation data

Through our support of thousands of older adults, it has become clear that the care gap is likely to remain unaddressed until critical SDOH needs are resolved. And most older adults don’t understand the full extent of their supplemental benefits or know how to take advantage of them. 

Uber Health and DUOS partnership

Since 2018, Uber Health’s HIPAA-supported solution has focused on offering healthcare organizations an easy way to manage population health. From NEMT to deliveries, Uber Health can help connect millions to the care they need. Today, over 3,000 healthcare organizations like DUOS have adopted Uber Health to connect their patients to care, leveraging Uber’s marketplace technology. 

With this partnership, DUOS will inform members when their health plan offers Uber Health as an option for NEMT services as part of the plan’s supplemental benefits. A member’s Duo—a dedicated guide to all things aging well—can help them book round-trip rides for things like doctor appointments and confirm that the trips are successfully completed.

From a population health standpoint, access to transportation options has long-term effects on patient health outcomes. Recent studies have shown that almost 6 million Americans miss medical care in a year due to transportation issues—which can lead to increased rates of attrition. This can be especially detrimental for already vulnerable populations such as older adults who rely on public and private sectors to come together to provide transportation they can securely access.

It’s important that services be optimized to help more vulnerable individuals—older adults and people who may have low income, be chronically ill, and/or have disabilities, for example—who are at a high risk of missing medical appointments or being socially isolated due to transportation barriers. Uber Health supports the accessibility of transportation as a covered benefit. People don’t need to have an Uber account, a smartphone, or even a credit card to benefit from Uber Health. 

Improving members’ trust and satisfaction

Solving social-barrier issues such as a lack of access to transportation effectively drives progress on AWVs: DUOS has an 83% conversion rate on gaps in AWV and Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) gaps for chronically ill noncompliant MA members with at least one SDOH need. 

Supporting SDOH needs improves members’ sense of trust and satisfaction with their health plan and boosts their perception of the organization that helps them access care. DUOS’ direct engagement with older adults leads to high Net Promoter Score (NPS) satisfaction rates (88+ across our customers), which has a carry-on effect for the plan: member surveys consistently suggest that a positive experience with DUOS increases the likelihood of retaining the member.

Health plans offering supplemental and SSBCI benefits should be evaluating SDOH and marketplace vendor partners who will increase utilization of benefits and address SDOH needs across categories to help close care gaps and improve member satisfaction.

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