There is plenty of misinformation circulating about the COVID-19 vaccine. During a time when many people don’t know what to believe, misalignment in messaging between states and Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MMCOs) could lead to further distrust in the vaccine. And even after overcoming hesitations, many individuals might still face barriers that stand in the way of them getting vaccinated.
To help overcome these hesitations and barriers, states and MMCOs can work together to raise awareness and instill confidence in the vaccine. And much of this work can be done by utilizing the established Medicaid Managed Care (MMC) model.
Strategic messaging key to building trust
When communicating the importance of the vaccine, it's essential to consider who the message is coming from. Many individuals may not be looking for health encouragement from their insurance company. But that same message from someone they deeply trust, such as their pastor or a community leader, can mean the difference between feeling unsure and accepting the vaccine. Amplifying and empowering the voices that communities trust is one of the strongest tactics we can use to promote vaccine messaging. And when communities see trusted leaders getting vaccinated, it normalizes the vaccine. This will be especially critical in BIPOC communities, which have been shown to be most impacted by COVID-19 and also increasingly hesitant to get the vaccine.
Many people look to social media or friends and family for health information before they look to the state, their provider or insurer. For many, accurate information may be limited due to language barriers, health literacy or the general grade level of the material. Utilizing partnerships with community organizations will streamline the messaging process, communicate with people in familiar ways and build stronger relationships for future partnerships. From answering questions to helping individuals determine vaccination eligibility, established MMCO partnerships with community-based organizations create an opportunity to deliver factual information to communities through a trusted community figure.
It will also be critical that all member-facing staff, including those working in call centers and care management, are trained to answer common COVID-19 vaccine questions and address concerns and hesitations. If staff are unable to answer a question, are delivering conflicting messages or are unsure of where someone can go to find additional resources, communities could lose more trust in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
Targeting regular MMCO-member connections
Many MMCOs and insurance companies regularly engage with members, creating a space to talk about the vaccine. This is especially true for high-risk members and those who receive care coordination and managed services, and these individuals may also be especially uncertain about receiving the vaccine due to their complicated health condition. Through regularly-scheduled touchpoints with these members, MMCOs can answer questions and educate individuals on the safety of the vaccine.
State partners do not necessarily have this type of hands-on relationship with members. By partnering with MMCOs, these regularly-scheduled touchpoints can act as a way for states to get information into the hands of those who need the vaccine most. From promoting and assisting at mass vaccination events to connecting individuals to state platforms to sign up for the vaccine, MMCOs are positioned to help states with their vaccination efforts.
Utilizing MMC to drive vaccination rates
As COVID-19 cases decline, individuals will be looking to catch up on managing their health conditions and resuming preventive care visits, creating additional touchpoints to educate individuals on the safety and benefits of the vaccine.
State partners are growing more interested in removing barriers to vaccine education, and many are looking to MMCOs for help. As vaccine supplies increase, we can expect that more people will contact MMCOs for help identifying when and where they can receive their vaccine. The MMCO can direct these individuals to the state web platform to schedule an appointment, thereby removing a barrier to access. And established MMCO supports, such as transportation solutions, could help to address common access issues that may stand in the way of individuals getting to a vaccination site.
As we continue to address vaccine hesitancy, MMCOs will be an integral part in reaching out to local communities, driving education efforts and helping people access the vaccine. Because of these established relationships with patients and community leaders, MMCOs can coordinate a unified front both at a state and local level.