Through this blog, The CommUnity Commitment will provide information, background, data, updates and activities throughout the nation associated with the Social Safety Net.
|WellCare Launches Nationwide Community Assistance Line to Connect People to Needed Social Services|
TAMPA, Fla. (March 5, 2015) — WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG), a leading provider of managed care services for government-sponsored health care programs, announced today that it launched a nationwide, toll-free Community Assistance Line (CAL) to help connect people to social services including financial, food, education and utility assistance, transportation, disability and homeless services, support groups and child care. WellCare’s CAL is open to the public and is a referral service that matches needs with more than 1.2 million programs and services.
The CAL is staffed by 32 WellCare community liaisons who act as peer support specialists. Two members of the team are deaf or hearing impaired and use video relay and video chat to assist callers who are also deaf or hearing impaired. All liaisons are trained to evaluate a person’s needs, to match those needs with relevant community-based programs and services, and to provide the requestor with contact information for the programs and services. The community liaisons are also responsible for populating the data base to continuously increase the number of programs and services that are available.
If the data base does not contain the programs and services needed, the community liaison will conduct research and/or work with local, community-based WellCare staff to try and fill the gap. Once the appropriate programs and services are identified, the community liaison will contact the person in need to connect them.
“We know that people cannot prioritize their health when their basic need for food, shelter, clothing and safety is not being properly met,” said Pamme Taylor, WellCare’s vice president for advocacy and community-based programs. “By simply helping people to address these needs, WellCare expects three positive outcomes: people will lead better, healthier lives; there will be greater support for the social safety net, and the overall costs of health care will be reduced.”
“St. Elizabeth Physicians is participating in this program in Kentucky because it provides a service we can offer to our patients that gets at the heart of many of the issues that are negatively impacting their overall health,” said Denise Page, director of quality and care management at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “More than seven offices and 100 staffers, including nurses and front desk personnel, have been trained to refer patients to the Community Assistance Line, and we expect another 21 offices with more than 300 people to be trained in the next six weeks.”
“Because my teenage daughter and I didn’t have enough money to stretch our food budget for the entire month, we were going hungry for days,” said Sarah Gonzales, whose daughter is a WellCare member and lives outside of Atlanta, Ga. “It was painful for me to know that sometimes her only meal would come from school.” Gonzales added, “When I called WellCare to get transportation assistance for a doctor’s appointment, I was told about the Community Assistance Line. I was then transferred to a Spanish speaking person who helped me to get food stamps. I can now focus on other areas of our lives like taking care of her, making my doctor’s appointments and enjoying life.”
WellCare’s CAL currently operates Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. To contact the line for assistance call 866-775-2192 (main line) or 855-628-7552 (video relay).
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Optimal health relies heavily on the synergy among physical, emotional and environmental factors. Americans achieve optimal health, as measured by length and quality, through their lifestyles choices and access to care. Disadvantageous and vulnerable circumstances impact the availability and accessibility of healthcare and influence lifestyles choices. The federal government created the Social Safety Net to mitigate the disadvantageous and vulnerable circumstances in 1934 as part of the New Deal Initiative (Moffitt, 2013).
In response to the economic challenges created by the Great Recession, the Federal government reduced funding for Social Safety Net services with continued risk of additional funding cuts despite increased use (Moffitt, 2013). In addition, the Budget Control Act of 2011 imposed budget sequestration resulting from the Super Committee’s efforts to reduce the $1.2 trillion national debt resulting from the Great Recession (Moffitt, 2013). At the same time, an increase in the number of individuals without viable, sustainable income offered the foundation on which to measure the economic impact of the Social Safety Net as well as provide evidence of the link between rising healthcare costs and declining health care outcomes with increased obstacles to accessing health care created from disadvantageous and vulnerable circumstances.
Moffitt, R. (2013, September 25). The Great Recession and the Social Safety Net. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 143-168.
Social barriers to accessing health care negatively impact health outcomes for low-income families contributing to the rise of health care costs in America (Lyons-Taylor, 2014). According to the University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute (UWPHI; 2013), working in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; 2012), four health factors influence health outcomes (and the assessment of population health) as measured by morbidity (quality of life) and mortality (length of life). According to UWPHI (2012), the four factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.
Social factors influencing health outcomes play a very important role in influencing health outcomes and must be considered within the population health equation. Since population health focuses on determining the health outcomes of a group of people, the social factors that influence their mortality and morbidity requires attention. In fact, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2011), 60 percent of social considerations contribute to premature death when left unmet. While the public health system offers health care to the general public, low-income and disadvantaged populations face greater personal and financial challenges to accessing health care options, including preventive measures (Gulliford, et al., 2002)
Through a recent study, The CommUnity Commitment and WellCare determined that there is a positive correlation between available social safety net services within a given county and increased access to care. This is an important step in quantifying the impact of removing social barriers to accessing health care and improved health outcomes. The important question being asked is “does increased access lead to improved health outcomes?” If we address social barriers by sustaining the social safety net, does that increase access to care and does that increased access truly have a positive impact on health outcomes? The next step in my analysis is to determine if a referral to a social service is enough to remove the barrier. If not, do we need to privatize the social safety net to ensure access and utilization in order to affect access to health care. And, from there, we can answer the underlying question of the link between access and health outcomes.
Gulliford, M., Figueroa-Munoz, J., Myfanwy, M., Hughes, D., GIbson, B., Beech, R., et al. (2002). What does ‘access to health care’ mean? Journal of Health Service Research & Policy, 7 (3), 186-188.
Healthy People 2020. (2014). Healthy People 2020. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from Healthy People: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/default.aspx
Lyons-Taylor, P. (2014). HealthConnections: Determining the impact of removing social barriers to accessing healthcare among low-income and disadvantaged families. Walden University, Public Health. Minneapolis: Walden University.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2011). Health Care’s Blind Side. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Washington: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2012). Overcoming obstacles to health. . Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Princeton: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute. (2013, January). County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. Retrieved January 11, 2014, from Rankings Background: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/about-project/rankings background
University of Wisconsin, Public Health Institute. (2012, January 1). County Health Rankings and Roadmaps – Our Approach. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from County Health Rankings: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/Our-Approach
Social barriers to accessing health care negatively impact health outcomes for low-income families contributing to the rise of health care costs in America. According to the University of Wisconsin Public Health Institute (UWPHI; 2013), working in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF; 2012), four health factors influence health outcomes as measured by morbidity (quality of life) and mortality (length of life). According to UWPHI (2012), the four factors include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Until recently, managed care organizations participating in government programs like managed Medicaid and Medicare, have historically focused on clinical care (World Health Organization, 2008). Determinants of health represent a significant concern within the public health care system and represent one of the Healthy People 2020’s (2014) four foundational health measures.
Using raw data from the County Health Rankings site and selected “health outcomes” data for the commonwealth of Kentucky as well as “social & economic factors”, “access to care” and “insufficient social supports”, the HealthConnections researcher loaded the selection into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) along with a five-digit Federal information Processing Standard (FIPS) data the United States Census Bureau (Census) to link all data sources by county. With this data housed in SPSS, the HealthConnections researcher first conducted a Chi-square test of independence and then prepared a multiple regression analysis to determine the R and R2 factor that leads to determining independent variable predicability of the dependent variable. Study analysis reveals a correlation among several but not all factors. First, with a X2 of .827 social and economic factors correlate strongly with health outcomes. To a lesser degree and with a X2 of .588, insufficient social supports also correlate with health outcomes. A Sig. factor of .000 represents a signficant correlation. Alternatively, the available social services correlate only with access to care also with a sig. factor of .000. With the correlation established, the HealthConnections researcher then conducted a linear regression analysis to determine potential causal relationships among the variables. The data above adds to the growing quantifiable evidence that social determinants impact health outcomes and there is a correlation of removing social barriers to accessing health care to improve health outcomes while adding analysis of the impact of the social service availability on access to care.
The less someone earns, the greater the barrier to accessing healthcare services. Accessing affordable healthcare represents a challenge to low-income populations. This same challenge hinders the ability to make healthy choices in general. While not a traditional environmental risk, I would contend that social determinants of health are social as well as environmental.