Health insurance industry launches SDOH project

America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for the health insurance industry, unveiled an initiative to address social determinants of health June 20.

The initiative, called Project Link, is part of a directive from AHIP's board of directors. The directive calls on health insurers to treat social barriers of health as key to improving health and financial security in the industry.

Under Project Link, health insurers will collaborate on housing, healthy eating and transportation solutions, among other projects. New programs created through Project Link will be scalable and measure outcome and affordability metrics. AHIP plans to use Project Link as a foundation for its research and policy agendas at the state and federal levels.

"This is a really instrumental, important new initiative because it's representing an industry's commitment to address social determinants of health and how we can make a really important difference," Matt Eyles, president and CEO of AHIP, said during a press briefing at the AHIP Institute & Expo in Nashville, Tenn.

Representatives from two health plans — CareMore and UCare — spoke about what Project Link looks like at their organizations. Robin Caruso, chief togetherness officer at CareMore, spoke about a member who went into a diabetic coma due to lack of food. Ms. Caruso said CareMore found out food access wasn't the issue. Rather, the member was preoccupied with caring for a son who misused substances, and CareMore worked with the family to resolve the issue.

Ghita Worcester, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at UCare, shared how Minneapolis is the fifth-largest food desert in the nation, and members struggled to access food. UCare partnered with a foundation called Wilder, which converted two retired buses into grocery stores on wheels to deliver food to members.

Rashi Venkataraman, executive director of prevention and population health at AHIP, said these programs succeeded because CareMore and UCare "designed these interventions very specifically based on the communities that they're serving, and work[ed] very closely with community partners — because I don't think anyone can do this work on their own."

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