Health Tech, Social Determinants

Papa Launches Programs To Address Health-Related Social Needs, Improve Star Ratings

Companion care company Papa has created two programs for health plans: one that addresses social drivers of health and one that aims to improve health plans’ star ratings.

Papa, a companion care company, announced two new programs Monday that will support health plans’ goals with social drivers of health (SDOH) and Medicare Star Ratings.

Miami-based Papa works with payers and pairs older adults and families with companions called Papa Pals, who can help with loneliness, meal prep, errands and household tasks. The company also has a remote team of social care navigators, who can assist with social issues the patient is experiencing. This team includes social workers, registered nurses, case managers and dietitians. 

Papa’s new SDOH Navigation program addresses social concerns like housing insecurity, food insecurity, home and environmental safety, transportation access, access to care, medical financial insecurity and community engagement. When a patient joins Papa, they’ll start with a social needs screener that identifies what challenges they have. Health plan customers will also send member information, and Papa Pals will identify social needs in the home as well. Using these data sources, the company will be able to connect patients to the support they require, whether that be transportation to an appointment, connecting them to community resources or helping with paperwork.

“You can’t just identify the need, and then provide the referral to a service or a benefit,” said Kelsey McNamara, senior director of research at Papa, in an interview. “You really need to be there to understand what barriers are getting in the way of that follow through. Everybody’s circumstance is unique. And so you need to provide that personalized support that can meet people where they are, that you can understand their barriers and really come up with the solutions that are going to make sense for the situation that they’re in.”

Papa also launched its Star Enhancement program to help Medicare Advantage plans improve their CMS Star Ratings. The program focuses on annual wellness visits, in-home assessments, health immunizations and preventive screenings, like cancer screenings and diabetic eye exams. The health plan will send member-level data to Papa to help the company understand patients’ gaps. The social care navigators will reach out to those members and resolve those care gaps. The company can schedule care visits for patients and help them with transportation to those visits.

“A lot of this is really important for those hard-to-engage and hard-to-reach populations, people who have disabilities, who even just getting from the parking lot into the doctor’s appointment can be a real challenge,” McNamara said. “So having that support there is so important. It’s really this closed-loop system of addressing specific stars-related care gaps.”

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Health plans can choose to add these programs to Papa’s core offering for an extra cost. They’ll receive member-level reporting on patients’ needs and their improvements.

The launch of these programs comes at a time when health plans are facing changes to CMS Star Ratings. CMS also has a stronger focus on health equity and created a 10-year health equity framework in 2022 that aims to improve the collection of data on health disparities and increase access to healthcare, among other things.

“With the pandemic, there’s been a greater emphasis on health equity and really addressing the root cause of health needs, which tend to be social,” McNamara said. “I think the past few years, everybody has really talked about social drivers of health and the impacts there. People started to do things about it, but the reality is people haven’t made much progress and there’s so much to do. So the fact that we’re seeing directives from regulatory bodies like CMS around health equity and SDOH is really making it clear that this is an imperative for health plans that they need to invest in.”

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