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Meridian and Papa Announce Companion Care Program Reduced Healthcare Costs by 33%

Meridian and Papa Announce Companion Care Program Reduced Healthcare Costs by 33%

PR Newswire

Participating Meridian Medicaid members experienced decreased emergency department visits, decreased hospital readmissions, and an increase in preventive care

DETROIT, Oct. 6, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Meridian, a Michigan-based provider of government-sponsored health plans, announced today the results of a six-month program that offered services from Papa, a curated platform of companionship and support, to Medicaid members age 45 and over with a high rate of emergency department (ED) utilization. Overall, the program showed a 33% reduction in healthcare costs for active participants, highlighting the impact of proactively addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) through a companion care model.

"The correlation between unmet social needs and an increased risk of hospitalization is strong," said Dr. Kay Judge, Chief Medical Officer, Meridian. "This particular group of members had five or more ED visits over the year that preceded the Papa program. By connecting these individuals with Papa Pals, we were able to identify and address social and clinical needs and increase the proactive support and care associated with driving better health, while potentially helping to avoid more serious issues down the line."

The program, which ran from May through October 2021, engaged Medicaid members who were high ED utilizers. Throughout the six-month program, 163 members completed 719 visits with a companion, called a Papa Pal, from Papa's national network. The analysis compared data from before program enrollment to data six months post-enrollment.

A Papa Pal is a vetted companion who helps members address unmet social needs. Papa Pals complete a range of tasks for members, depending on the individual need, including transportation, technology assistance, meal prep, appointment reminders, or even enjoying a card game together. The program often creates a special bond between the Papa Pal and member.

Program highlights among engaged members:
  • ED visits decreased by 25%
  • Hospital readmissions decreased by 14%
  • Cervical cancer screenings increased by 50%
  • Diabetic eye exams increased by 46%
  • HbA1C testing for diabetes diagnosis increased by 35%

"Meridian's partnership with Papa highlights the positive outcomes that occur when social drivers of health, like social isolation and lack of transportation, are addressed as factors impacting overall health, particularly for those who have a high number of unmet needs," said Ellen Rudy, PhD, vice president of health and social impact at Papa. "Companion care represents a sustainable, scalable solution that can impact not only an individual's health and well-being, but the health of their communities as well."

The program was recently recognized by Michigan Association of Health Plans' Pinnacle Awards in its Collaborative Community Health Initiatives category.

About the Study

Meridian's pilot program with Papa ran from May through October 2021 and focused on Medicaid members age 45 and over with a high rate of emergency department (ED) utilization, defined as five or more ED visits within the previous year. Throughout the pilot's duration, 163 Meridian members were engaged, 719 visits with Papa Pals were completed, and 806 related tasks were fulfilled. Meridian analyzed engaged members' claims data, comparing data from before program enrollment to data six months post-enrollment. Engaged members refers to members who took one or more visit with a Papa Pal during the pilot period. Upon evaluation, Meridian identified a 25% decrease in ED visits and a 14% decrease in hospital readmissions. This resulted in a 36.4% decrease in healthcare costs associated with ED visits and hospital readmissions. Overall healthcare costs decreased by 33%. Positive trends in care gap closure occurred for preventive care visits, blood pressure screenings, cervical cancer screenings, diabetic eye exams, and diabetic blood sugar screenings.

About Meridian

Meridian in Michigan provides government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors, and individuals with complex medical needs primarily through Medicaid (Meridian), Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Wellcare), Medicare-Medicaid Plans (MeridianComplete), and the Health Insurance Marketplace (Ambetter from Meridian). Meridian is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading healthcare enterprise committed to helping people live healthier lives. For more information about Meridian, visit

About Papa

Papa is a new kind of care, built on human connection. Across the country, health plans and employers look to Papa to provide vital social support by pairing older adults and families with Papa Pals, trained and vetted companions, who provide a helping hand and an open ear, resulting in less loneliness and better health. Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Miami, Papa is backed by Canaan, Tiger Global Management, Comcast Ventures, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, TCG, Initialized Capital, and Seven Seven Six, among other revered institutional and individual investors. We envision a world where no one has to go it alone. Learn more at


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SOURCE Meridian of Michigan

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