Experts Urge Strict Vendor Vetting Amid Reports of Trouble With ‘Papa Pals’

As health insurers increasingly try to address members’ social needs, some have turned to the company Papa Inc. to help tackle the problem of loneliness and isolation among seniors. Papa works by pairing homebound, elderly individuals with “pals” who provide companionship and help with daily tasks. But in certain cases, those interactions go terribly wrong — resulting in thefts, sexual harassment and even assaults, according to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek report in which the publication reviewed complaint reports.

One incident — in which a Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP) member reported lewd behavior from a pal — led the New York-based insurer to suspend all in-person pal visits and launch an investigation of the company’s practices. Another insurer tells AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that its members speak glowingly of the service. Still, industry experts say that the allegations against Papa should serve as a stern warning that health plans must thoroughly vet all vendors that interact with their members.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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