Minnesota partnering with health plans for more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine

Minnesota will be working with local health plans to expand equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine, especially to at-risk populations, the state health department announced Friday. 

Next week, health leaders will work with participating health plans to identify those who have impacted by COVID-19 and have been unable to get vaccinated, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a news release. These are the following participating health plans: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners, Hennepin Health, Itasca Medical Care, Medica, PreferredOne, PrimeWest Health, South Country Health Alliance, and UCare.

The partnership program will specifically target those enrolled in Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP), which includes Medical Assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare, and live in areas with a high social vulnerability index (SVI) score. An analysis of state data found 44% of African American, 39% of Native American, 31% of Hispanic and 20% of Asian Minnesotans under the age of 65 rely on MHCPs for health care coverage.

According to state COVID-19 data, people of color have been disproportionately affected by the virus, with Black and Latinx Minnesotans testing positive at higher rates than the overall population. However, data shows higher case rates aren't necessarily leading to people getting vaccinated. For example, Latinx Minnesotans aged 65+ have a lower vaccine rate compared to other ethnicity groups.

Staff with the health plans and the state will contact people, provide vaccination information, help schedule appointments and assist with coordinating travel arrangements to the appointment.

During a two-week pilot program by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, leaders found text message outreach led to a six-fold increase in walk-in appointments.