CareOregon helping Medicaid members stay cool in extreme heat


MM Curator summary

[MM Curator Summary]: The MCO is planning ahead this year to help members avoid heat stroke, using algorithms to identify those most at risk.


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CareOregon is targeting those who may be at risk for heat stroke.


With temperatures forecast to sneak into the triple digits this week, CareOregon is reaching out to about 700 members in its Medicaid plan who are at risk of heat-related illness.

The outreach actually started several weeks ago, in an effort to get ahead of the summer heat, in light of last year’s Heat Dome. Nearly 100 people, 13 of whom were CareOregon members, died statewide due to the extreme heat in June 2021. Many were seniors, people with disabilities and people with underlying medical conditions.

“This year, we wanted to start earlier because didn’t want to end up in a super-reactive state,” said Jonathan Weedman, vice president of population health for CareOregon, the largest Medicaid subcontractor under Health Share of Oregon. “We did outreach in early June to start prepping for what we knew would be inevitable.”

CareOregon identified those at risk by evaluating if they had a past history of heat-related illness and if they have chronic conditions. They also used geomapping technology to determine if they live within “heat islands,” or neighborhoods where temperatures rise the most during extreme heat.

“We got more sophisticated and more targeted in terms of the algorithm,” Weedman said.

A rapid response team of nurses, navigators, care coordinators and social workers has been contacting members and asking if they have an air conditioning unit and all their medications. CareOregon is also providing nonemergency medical transportation to cooling centers.

CareOregon does sometimes provide window units, but Weedman said some members are not allowed to have them in their apartments. Since last year’s heat wave, CareOregon has distributed 240 air conditioners.

One person said they had a unit but didn’t want to use it for fear of running up their electricity bill. CareOregon got them some utility assistance, Weedman said.

“There’s the basics, but also problem solving for all these other things,” he said.

Beginning Monday, TriMet will not turn away anyone riding to a cool place who cannot afford to pay fare. Multnomah County provides an interactive map of pools, community centers and other cool community places.

CareOregon manages care for 511,000 members, mostly in the Portland metro but also in Columbia and Jackson counties.


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