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WellCare Tackles Social Needs For Medicare Members During COVID-19 Pandemic

posted by Mike Polen, SVP and CEO of Medicare Solutions, Centene

on August 19, 2020

It’s estimated that 1 in 6 Americans could go hungry during the COVID-19 crisis, and among those most vulnerable are our nation’s seniors.

According to Feeding America, 5.5 million seniors age 60 and older are food insecure. Seniors regularly face challenges accessing food due to mobility and transportation limitations, but with social distancing measures in place, these have only increased.

As seniors continue to face barriers to care and other needed resources during the pandemic, WellCare – a health plan providing Medicare Advantage plans to nearly 1 million members across the country – has implemented a number of measures to help seniors access care and address social determinants of health.

In May, we announced we were waiving cost-sharing for in-network primary care, behavioral health, and telehealth, while increasing over-the-counter and meal benefits for members.

But we wanted to do more.

Understanding our members increasingly face social barriers to their health, we turned to WellCare’s Community Connections Help Line – a toll-free, nationwide line available to anyone in need – to understand the most requested resources among Medicare populations.

Between March 1 and June 30, the Help Line fielded more than 4,000 calls from Medicare members in need. Food assistance was the numberone most requested service (34%) followed by medication assistance (26%) and transportation (14%).

In response, WellCare sought out innovative solutions to help address these issues.

In August, we announced a partnership with Shipt, the same-day delivery service, to help Medicare Advantage members safely and conveniently access groceries and everyday essentials.

The benefit, which is available to more than 200,000 WellCare members across 23 states, provides free monthly Shipt memberships to eligible members for the remainder of 2020. Members can have groceries and essentials delivered from a number of retailers directly to their homes through their Shipt account, ensuring they have access to the supplies they need, while helping them avoid unnecessary trips to the store that could expose them to the virus.

The COVID-19 crisis continues to change everything we know about daily life in America, and as health plans, we have a responsibility to protect the well-being of our members.

These enhanced benefits and partnerships are just one example of how we’re looking at the data to understand our members’ needs while helping them access quality care and services during this challenging time.


Mike Polen is the SVP and CEO of Medicare Solutions for Centene Corporation. WellCare is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene.

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