Press Releases
June 15, 2021

Moving the Needle: Push is On to Get Vaccine to Medicaid Members


Moving the Needle: Push is On to Get Vaccine to Medicaid Members

Health Plans, Providers Offer Convenience and Access

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Gov. Mike DeWine challenged Ohio’s Medicaid Managed Care plans late last month to do more to help Medicaid members get the COVID-19 vaccine, the health plans quickly collaborated and got to work.

Together, Aetna, Buckeye Health Plan, CareSource, Molina Healthcare, Paramount Advantage and UnitedHealthcare provide Medicaid services to 2.8 million Ohioans. Now, they’re partnering with health care providers across the state in a coordinated push to get 900,000 more Medicaid members vaccinated by mid-August. Such a massive undertaking calls for innovation and cooperation — the hallmarks of Ohio’s Medicaid program and its managed care partners.

“This is where the advantages of Managed Care plans really come through,” said Kelly O’Reilly, president and CEO of the Ohio Association of Health Plans (OAHP). “Our health plan teams are laser-focused on meeting our members where they are, getting their questions answered and making the vaccine accessible. We can be nimble and adapt to the challenges they’re facing.”

Those challenges, such as a lack of transportation or an inflexible work schedule, contribute to an unacceptable statistic. As of May 24, 45% of Ohioans overall had been vaccinated, but among Medicaid recipients, the figure was half that, only 22%. 

Challenges faced by Medicaid members have kept vaccination rates low even though the vaccine is free to individuals. A key part of the health plans’ strategy to change that is convenience. More provider partners will offer the vaccine to patients who are in the office for other reasons and will give the shots on the spot to those patients who agree. Providers have been doing this with flu shots for years, but the COVID-19 vaccination presented a unique dilemma. CDC guidelines call for patients to be observed for 15 minutes after receiving a COVID-19 shot. That created a problem for some practices that depend on seeing a certain number of patients per day and don’t have room for vaccine patients to wait.

The plans have agreed on a simple solution: For a limited time, providers will receive extra compensation for giving COVID-19 shots to Medicaid consumers. Through Aug. 15, the normal provider payment of $38 for administering the vaccine is raised to $100.

Pharmacists also are key links in the health care chain, and an innovative partnership gives them a central role in the vaccination campaign. A digital product developed by Cardinal Health can give pharmacists important information about individual patients in real time, as they stand at the counter. For the vaccination effort, the health plans are partnering with Cardinal Health on a program that notifies the pharmacist if a Medicaid member has not received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The pharmacist can then talk to the member about the importance of getting the vaccine and can administer it on the spot if the individual agrees. Additional assistance from the plans to the pharmacies giving the vaccine makes it easier for pharmacists to take the time to address patients individually. This promises to be especially helpful in addressing persistent myths about the vaccine. A trusted pharmacist is an ideal messenger of the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

Other initiatives underway or in the planning stages include:

  • Working with local health departments, community providers and faith-based groups to help spread the word to Medicaid recipients about vaccination opportunities.
  • Sending staff members to help run vaccination events and providing free transportation to those who need it, including with partners such as Uber and Lyft.
  • Identifying members who are homebound and working with providers to take the vaccine to them.
  • Working with providers to offer more vaccination opportunities outside of normal business hours.
  • Providing direct rewards, including gift cards and weekly raffles to members who get vaccinated.

Getting more Ohioans vaccinated is the key to shedding the pandemic restrictions that have affected business and everyday life. Along with the state’s continuing Vax-a-Million incentive, these innovations by the health plans and their partners could boost Ohio’s vaccine numbers significantly.

For more information on Ohio’s Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, visit