Traditionally offering virtual assistance and navigation services to employers, inclusive health is now moving into the health plan space. It is partnering with Point32Health to serve its commercial members in the LGBTQ+ community, companies announced Wednesday.
Based in San Francisco Health included offers patients access to virtual and in-person urgent care, primary care, behavioral health, and specialty care. It also provides navigation and advocacy services tailored to the LGBTQ+ community and the Black community. Point32Health, meanwhile, is a combined Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan organization that caters to people in the Northeast. The organization serves more than 2 million members, though it’s unclear how many identify as LGBTQ+.
Point32Health will now be able to offer members access to LGBTQ+ Health, Included Health’s navigation and advocacy program for LGBTQ+ members. These members will have access to a care team led by LGBTQ+ Care Coordinators, who can help them find gender-affirming online providers. They may also be connected to support groups and receive education on medical and legal issues. The services are available through the web and an app.
“They will be welcomed [by] someone like them, someone from the same community who perhaps has had similar life experiences or faced many of the same health care challenges that members reach out to us about,” said Colin Quinn, president of Communities at Included Health. parent who is seeking assistance for their child or trying to talk to someone because their child just came out to them, or perhaps is a trans member navigating their gender affirmation surgery and needs help with understand benefits and coverage”.
Tufts Health Plan members began receiving access to LGBTQ+ Health on January 1, while Harvard Pilgrim members will have access later this year. The partnership differs from the one with SCAN Health Plan, which created a separate health plan for LGBTQ+ seniors. With Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim, Included Health’s LGBTQ+ health services will be incorporated into current commercial member offerings.
LGBTQ+ members often find it difficult to access care: 45% have difficulty finding a general practitioner, 60% have difficulty finding a mental health professional, 40% report having had negative health experiences or discrimination and the 35% postpone or avoid treatment due to negative experiences, according to Inclusive Health Research. The company is trying to move the needle on these statistics, Quinn said.
“As a result of that discrimination or negative experience, members say, ‘I don’t know who I can trust in the health care system. As a result, I will postpone or avoid my treatment.’ That’s not a good thing,” she said.
Quinn, a gay man, has had his own difficulties accessing care. Several years ago, he tried pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a treatment to prevent HIV.
“I was looking for a doctor to prescribe PrEP,” she said. “The first doctor I went to really didn’t understand what PrEP was and shamed me for wanting to continue, instead of supporting me, applauding me for this good decision I was making for my personal health… I actually put it off and i avoided my health care for a while because then i was in my head.
Quinn’s experience led him to found Included Health in 2019, which was acquired by Grand Rounds and Doctor On Demand in 2021. The combined entity has been rebranded under the Included Health brand.
Health plans have a responsibility to improve access to health care for the LGBTQ+ community, Quinn said. This will improve member satisfaction and reduce healthcare costs.
“There is a significant unmet need,” he said. “Something has to happen there. When there is an unmet need, what deteriorates is member satisfaction, member experience… It is actually better to ensure that members connect early to those established and clinically competent primary care physicians to reduce actually long-term health care costs over time,” he said.
Other startups providing assistance to the LGBTQ+ community include FOLX Greetings And Plume.
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