This year marks NAMD’s third annual Spotlight Award, which recognizes the crucial work done by Medicaid agencies to serve the more than 80 million people covered by the program. The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant new challenges to our healthcare system, but Medicaid directors worked tirelessly to use these disruptions to address longstanding challenges in Medicaid. This year, we are proud to highlight Florida’s leadership in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates among Medicaid members.
Like many states across the country, Florida was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Medicaid members faced challenges accessing the COVID-19 vaccine, including social determinants of health-related needs.
Following FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines, Florida recognized the need to increase uptake of the vaccine among Medicaid members. However, there wasn’t one simple solution to this challenge; members experienced a variety of barriers to vaccination, ranging from difficulties accessing transportation to vaccine sites to hesitancies around receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Meeting the Moment
To increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among Medicaid members, Florida designed an incentive to encourage its managed care organizations (MCOs) to launch broad outreach efforts. In order to be eligible for this incentive, MCOs were required to vaccinate over half of their members who were 50 years or older. Then, MCOs could earn dollar-credits for each person vaccinated; these dollar-credits alleviated liquidated damages owed by the MCOs to the state.
Florida Medicaid also led weekly meetings with the MCOs to develop several initiatives to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, including:
- Rapid-cycle population health data reporting
- Pharmacy desert mapping
- Development of new homebound care departments and new transportation arrangements for members
- Greater use of peer supports in outreach to patients with mental health and substance use, new partnerships with faith-based organizations, and increased integration of vaccine-related efforts and primary care services in community mental health centers
- New incentives for providers, two-way data sharing with provider networks on member vaccination status, and Continuing Medical Education (CME) webinars on vaccination
In response to this initiative, 11 out of 12 MCOs surpassed the 50 percent minimum threshold, and one MCO vaccinated over 70 percent of their members. This initiative resulted in approximately 500,000 more Medicaid members receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Importantly, these strategies are now being expanded by MCOs to improve other outcomes such as flu vaccinations and mental health follow-ups after emergency room visits. Florida’s efforts also demonstrate that alleviating liquid damages can be used as an impactful incentive for MCO-based population health initiatives.
For these innovations, the state of Florida is a recipient of NAMD’s 2021 Spotlight Award.