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FAQs for Amended Secretary of Health Order on Partnerships with Area Agencies on Aging and Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations

March 24, 2021

What are the Area Agencies on Aging and what do they do?
The Area Agencies on Aging are a network of 52 agencies that help to serve, protect and advocate for older adults age 60 and older in all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.  They are a trusted local resource that provide an array of benefits, services, and programs to help older Pennsylvanians remain independent and to live and thrive in their homes and communities safely.

What are Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations and what do they do?
Medical Assistance is Pennsylvania's Medicaid program. Managed care organizations (MCOs) coordinate delivery and coordination of care and other supportive services for individuals enrolled in their program. Physical Health MCOs administer Pennsylvania's Physical HealthChoices system and are expected to facilitate access to and help coordinate care and services for members' physical health and well-being. They know what health risks and pre-existing conditions their membership may have, and they would be able to identify members currently eligible for vaccination based on health status, help connect them to a vaccine provider in their community if they are not yet vaccinated, and help coordinate transportation if necessary. Community HealthChoices (CHC) MCOs coordinate physical health and long-term services and supports for Pennsylvanians who use both Medicaid and Medicare as well as Pennsylvanians with physical disabilities who require long-term services and supports. Behavioral Health MCOs manage behavioral health services to members to treat their mental and/or substance use diagnoses/disorders.

What does the amended Secretary of Health Order require?
The amended Secretary of Health Order requires vaccine providers, when requested by the Department or its representative, to coordinate with the applicable local Area Agency on Aging to schedule appointments for older adults eligible under Phase 1A as well as to coordinate with the applicable Medical Assistance MCO to schedule appointments for individuals under Phase 1A.

The Departments of Health and Aging have partnered to facilitate each local Area Agency on Aging with Vaccine Providers to ensure that all Area Agencies on Aging have a direct partnership with  Vaccine Providers to assist with scheduling appointments for seniors.

The Departments of Health and Human Services have also partnered to facilitate partnerships between Medical Assistance MCOs and Vaccine Providers to assist with scheduling appointments for individuals under Phase 1A.

Why are dedicated partnerships with Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations being required?
Partnerships between Vaccine Providers and Medical Assistance MCOs are being required to increase the opportunity for Vaccine Providers to meet the goal set by Governor Wolf and the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force to complete the scheduling of first dose appointments for all Phase 1A Pennsylvanians.  The vaccination appointments do not need to occur by March 31st, however the appointments need to be scheduled by this time. These partnerships with MCOs will provide a direct source between individuals in poverty and with underlying conditions to sign up for vaccination, many of whom may not have access to broadband. Community Health Choices, in particular, serves individuals who receive care in the home but would otherwise be eligible for nursing facility level of care. Medical Assistance more broadly serves a disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minorities in the Commonwealth, and so incorporating  Medical Assistance MCOs in the process will promote racial equity in vaccine distribution.

Why are dedicated partnerships with Area Agencies on Aging being required?
Partnerships between Vaccine Providers and the local Area Agencies on Aging are being required to increase the opportunity for Vaccine Providers to meet the goal set by Governor Wolf and the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force to complete the scheduling of first dose appointments for all Phase 1A Pennsylvanians. The vaccination appointments do not need to occur by March 31st; however the appointments need to be scheduled by this time. These partnerships with the Area Agencies on Aging will provide a direct line between a trusted resource for Pennsylvania's older adults and the Vaccine Providers, streamline the process scheduling appointments, and help to reduce frustrations experienced by older adults.

Have the Area Agencies on Aging been engaged in the COVD-19 vaccine rollout?
Yes, the Area Agencies on Aging have been coordinating with community partners and collaborating with the Department of Aging's PACE pharmaceutical program to help connect eligible older adults to vaccine appointments.  These partnerships have demonstrated efficiencies and good outcomes in prioritizing and supporting older adults to obtain appointments.

Have the Medical Assistance Managed Care Organizations been engaged in the COVD-19 vaccine rollout?
Pennsylvania recently launched an initiative to vaccinate 9,000 of our most high-risk individuals in long-term services and supports programs. The Community Health Choices MCOs helped coordinate this effort and are able to help coordinate vaccine access for the rest of their population that still needs to be vaccinated. The Physical Health MCOs have partnered with certain vaccine providers to schedule their enrollees for vaccination and provide additional supports.

What is the role of Behavioral Health MCOs?
Certain physical health diagnoses primarily qualify an individual for vaccination under Phase 1A, rather than behavioral health diagnoses. As such, Physical Health MCOs and Community Health Choices MCOs will serve primarily as the direct partners for vaccine providers, but there may be a role for Behavioral Health MCOs in the future.

How can the Area Agencies on Aging provide assistance with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout?
Depending on each agency's capacity and resources, they can help provide connections and support in a variety of ways, such as:

  • scheduling prioritized older adults for vaccine appointments
  • arranging transportation
  • offering senior centers to serve as vaccine clinics
  • providing guidance and support to older adults and their families
  • supporting vaccine clinics at senior housing complexes
  • identifying homebound seniors

How can the Managed Care Organizations provide assistance with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout?
Depending on each MCO's capacity and resources, they can help provide connections and support in a variety of ways, such as:

  • scheduling prioritized individuals for vaccine appointments
  • arranging transportation
  • arranging for community-based locations to serve as vaccine clinics
  • providing educational guidance and support to Medical Assistance recipients, with the appropriate cultural and linguistic considerations taken into account
  • supporting vaccine clinics with volunteers from the MCOs
  • assist vaccine providers with race/ ethnicity, gender, and other demographic data collection for reporting to DOH as needed
  • risk stratifying their enrollees to identify those with multiple comorbidities, receiving home and community-based services, and at highest risk for serious COVID-19 infection
  • ensure that enrollees return for second doses (for those vaccines that are a two-dose series)

What practices are encouraged as a part of the partnership between Vaccine Providers and  Area Agencies on Aging and Managed Care Organizations?

  • Vaccine Providers may designate a set amount of vaccine appointments to help the AAAs and MCOs move through their consumer list and schedule appointments
  • Vaccine Providers may support vaccine clinics in senior housing complexes  and other community-based settings
  • Vaccine Providers may set aside specific timeframes in their schedules to allow AAAs and MCOs to fill those appointments

I'm enrolled in Medical Assistance— who can I contact for additional information?
You may contact your Physical Health or Community Health Choices MCO for additional information.

Can the Area Agencies on Aging help all older adults or only older adults enrolled in their programs?
The Area Agencies on Aging can assist all older adults age 60 and older eligible under Phase 1A of the Pennsylvania Interim COVID-19 Vaccination Plan that have questions about the vaccine or are unable to use online scheduling systems to schedule a vaccine appointment.