Two distinguished Democratic senators have requested a Authorities Accountability Workplace examine of why covid vaccination charges stay far decrease amongst Medicaid enrollees than the final inhabitants and what limitations are impeding state efforts to improve immunizations amongst program beneficiaries, low-income individuals who have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

Sens. Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and Ron Wyden of Oregon asked for the inquiry, citing current tales by KHN and Roll Call which have highlighted the issue and states’ ongoing battle to increase vaccination charges, in accordance to a letter to the GAO that was offered to KHN. A KHN article revealed in February reported knowledge from a number of states — Utah, Washington, Virginia, and California — which confirmed that vaccination charges of the Medicaid inhabitants had been effectively beneath general state charges. For instance, in California, 54% of Medicaid enrollees 5 and older had been no less than partly vaccinated, in contrast with 81% of state residents in that age group.

State and Medicaid well being plan officers advised KHN that a part of the issue was that plans don’t have present addresses or cellphone numbers for a lot of members, which has made contacting them troublesome. In a KHN story revealed in August, state officers stated they had been additionally hampered by a scarcity of entry to knowledge about which members are immunized.

The issues mirror the decentralized nature of Medicaid, which will get the vast majority of its funding from the federal authorities however is managed by the states.

“Obstacles to vaccinating Medicaid enrollees are notably troubling given this system’s significance for individuals of coloration and low-wage staff,” the senators wrote within the letter to the GAO.

“We’re involved that these knowledge limitations could also be impeding efforts to improve COVID-19 vaccination charges and deal with persistent well being inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, notably amongst communities of coloration and folks with restricted incomes who’ve been disproportionately affected by this illness.”

Casey chairs the Senate Particular Committee on Growing older, and Wyden chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid spending.

“We wish to guarantee each effort is made to ease vaccine entry to these beneficiaries,” the senators wrote. “An absence of excellent knowledge hurts our capacity to get pictures in arms, which may delay the pandemic and put high-risk teams in even larger hazard.’’

The letter additionally cited a report by Duke University researchers that claims there’s a 15% to 20% distinction in vaccination charges between Medicaid beneficiaries and folks with different types of well being protection.

The vaccination lag is particularly essential as a result of 5 million enrollees are front-line staff within the well being business and different essential providers, the senators stated, citing a report from the Heart on Funds and Coverage Priorities.

Phil Galewitz: [email protected], @philgalewitz