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 reporting and editing in various journalism roles for nearly a decade. Most recently, she was the senior editor of FierceHealthPayer, an e-newsletter covering the health insurance industry. A graduate of Penn State University, she previously served in editing roles at newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado.

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