Humana members see fewer physically unhealthy days amid pandemic: report

Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Humana members in its Bold Goal markets were largely able to maintain their overall health quality of life, according to a new report.

The insurer released its annual look at progress in the Bold Goal program Tuesday morning, where it found that Medicare Advantage members living in these markets saw a 2.2% decrease in Unhealthy Days last year. Unhealthy Days, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are when a person reports his or her mental or physical health is poor.

In Humana's broader MA population, Unhealthy Days ticked up by less than 1% in 2020, according to the report. In both groups, Humana saw an increase in physically Healthy Days alongside a greater number of mentally Unhealthy Days.

William Shrank, M.D., chief medical officer at Humana, told Fierce Healthcare that the pandemic highlighted how critical the program's community ties are to managing members' needs.

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"We’re excited and we’re proud that we’re continuing to see a sustained benefit from these deep community partnerships we’ve created in these Bold Goal markets," Shrank said. "The results from this year really showed that work prepared us well to help members withstand the challenges of the pandemic."

Members in Bold Goal markets saw 5.1% fewer physically Unhealthy Days in 2020 and 2.2% more mentally Unhealthy Days. In the broader population, members saw 2.4% fewer physically Unhealthy Days last year and 5.4% more mentally Unhealthy Days.

The report shows that 41.7% Bold Goal program members said their food insecurity needs were met last year, and 35.1% said the same about their medical transport needs.

In addition, 26% said their nonmedical transportation needs were met in 2020, as did 12.4% of members about their financial strain. About 12% of members said their housing insecurity needs were met last year, as did 9.9% of members about their loneliness.

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Shrank said the challenges faced by members under the pandemic were "materially different" than before the novel coronavirus began to spread, and, as such, a new approach was necessary.

"It was pretty clear rather early in the pandemic that we had to change the way we were supporting our members," he said.

For example, through the insurer's Basic Needs Program, 1.1 million meals were delivered to more than 78,000 members last year. The company also doubled its goal of 3 million social needs screenings in 2020, instead conducting 6 million.

Amid social distancing and shutdowns under the pandemic, loneliness and social isolation became a key concern. He said critical programs targeting loneliness, such as the insurer's partnership with Papa, went digital or telephonic to ensure members were still experiencing those interactions.

He said a crucial factor in reaching members during the pandemic was that the lines of communication were already open, and a rapport with them had been established long before COVID-19.

"The way I think about it is that the Bold Goal started out more as an experiment, and now it’s how we do our business," Shrank said.