CareLinx Partners with Lacuna Health, Connects Caregivers to Insurance Options

National online home care service platform CareLinx and care management powerhouse Lacuna Health are teaming up in a new model that their top executives see as a boon for both businesses.

CareLinx, which AARP recently named as a preferred provider for in-home care, connects seniors across the U.S. to its network of technology-enabled and thoroughly vetted caregivers. Generali Global Assistance acquired CareLinx in September 2017.

In addition to partnering with Lacuna — a wholly-owned subsidiary of Louisville, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare — San Bruno, California-based CareLinx is making moves to offer access to health, dental, vision and life insurance to its growing workforce of more than 300,000 caregivers.

The budding relationship with Lacuna, in particular, will be “a game changer,” especially when it comes to working with regional or state-level Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, CareLinx founder and CEO Sherwin Sheik told Home Health Care News. Under the new model, CareLinx will couple its non-skilled caregiving capabilities with Lacuna’s care management solutions, providing added clinical components to keep high-risk patients in the lowest-cost setting: home.

“Relying purely on non-medical, in-home care is not sufficient,” Sheik said. “We’ve started encountering customers who want to go live with CareLinx given our ability to help control costs by moving more care into home- and community-based settings, but for those relationships to really take hold, they need to see clinical, skilled oversight — a care management team — and that’s what CareLinx and Lacuna help provide.”

The new model isn’t just beneficial for CareLinx. By teaming with CareLinx and its online caregiving platform, Lacuna will be able to offer its customers screening for caregiver services as patients transition from home to hospitals or other post-acute settings, Lacuna CEO Brian Holzer told HHCN. The model also means Lacuna will be better armed to tackle various care needs as they arise, he said.

“Today, we in many ways deliver an incomplete service,” Holzer, who also serves as president of Kindred Innovations, said. “This allows us to commit to our customers that not only will we identify gaps in care, but that we have strategic partners with companies like CareLinx to solve for those gaps.”

Kindred Innovations is a division of Kindred Healthcare.

At a high level, the CareLinx partnership will help round out Lacuna’s offerings, Holzer said, adding that similar strategic relationships are in the works related to transportation, polypharmacy medication management and telemedicine.

Lacuna operates independently and offers its services to clients on a white-label basis, with pricing varying by client, product and scope of services. Kindred at Home — despite no longer being part of Kindred Healthcare after its acquisition by insurer Humana (NYSE: HUM) and two private equity firms — is one of the health care organizations currently using Lacuna’s offerings.

The company offers its inbound, outbound and after-hours patient engagement and care management services customized for hospitals, physician groups, accountable care organizations, employers and post-acute care companies. Its flagship offering is a nurse hotline service, which provides nurse-led support to patients and caregivers throughout the country. The call service was set up in 2014 and receives roughly 75,000 calls per year.

The University of Louisville Hospital — Comprehensive Stroke Center, another client, partners with Lacuna  in a pilot program to provide follow-up care for stroke patients after they leave the hospital.

Partnership perks

Ultimately, the goal of the CareLinx-Lacuna Health model is to improve access to affordable, coordinated and quality home care for families, large health systems and insurance companies, the executives said.

The strategic partnership will likely be most appealing to regional and state-level Medicare Advantage plans, as larger organizations typically already have care management systems in place.

“Jointly, we can provide an outside-of-the-box care management solution to smaller, more regional types of health care organizations that really want to expand their post-acute strategies to include care management coupled with non-medical in-home care,” Sheik said. “This kind of joint-offering, I believe, is going to be pretty well received through the more regional health plans and at-risk providers.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in April a final rule allowing non-skilled, in-home care services as a supplemental benefit for MA plans starting in 2019. CareLinx is primed to see its referrals go up under the new model as well.

“What we’re doing is, for our customers, we’re identifying a gap in care, maybe a patient we think won’t qualify for, say, certified home health but would qualify for — and be interested in — receiving non-skilled, in-home care,” Holzer said. “We could then make a referral to CareLinx, essentially a warm transfer, and then CareLinx would go through the process of educating the patient and his or her family, potentially getting those folks connected to caregiver resources.”

Neither money nor equity factored into the partnership arrangement.

“I think it’s really important because this is where the puck is going,” Holzer said. “There’s going to increasingly be reimbursement vehicles in play from CMS to support the benefit of a patient receiving caregiver support.”

Insurance access for caregivers

Its arrangement with Lacuna isn’t the only recent news for CareLinx.

On Thursday, the online caregiving platform also announced a new partnership with Stride Health, a benefits platform for gig and independent workers. The partnership will allow CareLinx to offer health, dental, vision and life insurance to the hundreds of thousands of private caregivers in its network, according to the company.

“Finding quality health care coverage can be unnecessarily complex for professional caregivers working for families,” Sheik said. “Through our partnership with Stride, every one of our caregivers will be able to easily find the best health insurance plan for them and their families, and see if they qualify for lower premiums.”

Added benefits include personalized health insurance recommendations to help caregivers find plans based on their needs, a subsidy discovery service that helps reduce insurance payments and year-round member support.

Employment of personal care aides is projected to grow by nearly 40% from 2016 to 2026, a growth rate that would require more than 770,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The move to offer insurance access is in line with CareLinx’s efforts to attract and retain qualified caregivers.

Written by Robert Holly

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Robert Holly
When Robert's not covering the latest in home health care news, you can likely find him rooting for the White Sox or roaming his neighborhood streets playing Pokemon Go. Before joining HHCN, Robert covered everything from big agribusiness to the hottest tech startups. 

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