Collaboration aims to improve vaccine access for most vulnerable populations
Independence Blue Cross (Independence) and Rite Aid have been working together to help Independence members secure COVID-19 vaccine appointments. The collaboration includes proactive outreach by Independence to vaccine-eligible members and one-on-one assistance setting up COVID-19 vaccine appointments at specific Rite Aid locations. This is part of Independence’s ongoing community-based efforts to support its most vulnerable members during the pandemic.
“We are excited to be able to help our members get these important appointments and are glad to be working with Rite Aid to make it possible. Vaccine eligibility has expanded but navigating the websites and other digital tools to make appointments is still hard for some people, depending on technology access and proficiency” said Gregory E. Deavens, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross.
The collaboration with Rite Aid began in early March and initially targeted Medicare Advantage members who live in priority areas that Independence identified across the five counties it serves. Philadelphia and Delaware Counties were initially selected based on the number of vaccine-eligible members living in zip codes with low vaccination rates, social barriers (e.g. limited access to internet for scheduling and transportation, etc.), and the availability of vaccines at Rite Aid stores in these locations.
Once the initial priority areas were identified, specific Rite Aid locations in Philadelphia and Boothwyn were chosen. Independence prioritized members for outreach based on their social determinant of health barriers and clinical risk factors including treatment history for cancer, chronic kidney disease, Down syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Independence made outreach calls to each of the members and helped them make appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine at specific Rite Aid locations near their residence.
“By prioritizing clinical risk factors in tandem with social barriers, we were able to ensure that communities facing the largest barriers are not left behind,” said CEO Deavens. “To date, we have reached out to more than 20,000 members and have successfully scheduled over 2,000 vaccine appointments.”
Based on the success of initial outreach, Independence has expanded this work beyond Medicare Advantage members to everyone eligible under state and city guidelines. In addition, we have started scheduling appointments at stores in Montgomery County. There are also plans underway with Rite Aid to start scheduling appointments at store locations in Bucks and Chester Counties as soon as vaccine supply permits.
Independence will assist members in scheduling appointments as opportunities become available based on vaccine supply. Independence is not able to accept requests for vaccine assistance by phone. Members who are vaccine-eligible and want assistance making an appointment to get their COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to fill out Independence’s Vaccine Interest Form. As with any vaccine, Independence has no control over the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine supply is being controlled by the federal government, in collaboration with state and local governments.