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Cigna launches COVID-19 vaccine transportation for Medicare Advantage members

Lack of transportation is a social determinant that is especially prevalent among economically disadvantaged communities.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

(Photo by zoranm/Getty Images)(Photo by zoranm/Getty Images)

In an effort to help older Americans get access to the COVID-19 vaccine, Cigna is providing transportation to and from vaccine sites at no extra cost to customers in most of its Medicare Advantage plans across the U.S.

Cigna is working with its Medicare Advantage transportation vendor, Access2Care, which coordinates transportation for customers. Participating transportation companies will vary by location. 

Cigna's MA customers completed more than 400,000 trips through the program in 2020, primarily to doctors and pharmacies.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The move comes at a critical juncture in efforts to control the global pandemic, as mass vaccination is seen as perhaps the most important tool in finally controlling the coronavirus.

Yet access to vaccines is uneven. While many factors play into that, social determinants of health can prove to be a significant barrier. Transportation, or specifically the lack thereof, is a social determinant that is especially prevalent among economically disadvantaged communities, including many communities of color.

In the health insurer's transportation program, more than 500,000 customers in 23 states are eligible for four one-way trips of up to 60 miles each way to get their vaccine. The program allows for four trips, since some vaccines require two doses. Transportation for one adult companion is also included to accommodate caregivers.

Customers who qualify for the vaccine in their state can arrange for the round trip during an initial call. For safety and security reasons, the service will not be available for drive-through clinics. Riders and drivers must follow local COVID-19 safety guidelines.

THE LARGER TREND

Nationally, vaccination efforts are trending in the right direction. As of April 15, the seven-day average number of COVID-19 vaccinations administered daily reached 3.3 million, a 10.3% increase from the previous week's average, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That translates to about 198.3 million total vaccine doses administered. Overall, almost 126 million Americans (37.9% of the U.S population) have received at least one dose, while roughly 78.5 million (23.6%) have received both doses.

Disappointingly, the seven-day case average is on the rise, hitting 69,577 last week, an 8.1% increase from the week prior. But the average is still down more than 72% since the pandemic's seven-day average peak of 249,861 recorded on January 11.

After analyzing specimens collected through March 27, the CDC attributed 44.1% of U.S. COVID-19 cases to the U.K variant B.1.1.7, while the Brazil variant accounted for about 1.4% of all cases, and the South African variant comprised 0.7% of all cases.

The current seven-day hospitalization average is 5,507, up 4.5% from the previous week, but it's a 66.7% decrease from the peak seven-day average of 16,521 logged on January 9.

Deaths showed a similar pattern, increasing 10.8% week-over-week to hit 712, which is still a 79.4% decrease from the January 13 peak of 3,457 deaths.
 

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Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com