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Need help with everyday chores and errands? Braven Health customers now have a companion in their benefits


New “Papa Pals” benefit for 2022 supports seniors and their health

It’s said that “a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” But for “Norma,” a 70-year old woman who hadn’t visited her primary care doctor for 25 years, a new-found companion got her back on track to refresh all aspects of her soul, mind and body.

Norma, whose name is fictitious but whose experience is real, didn’t like to go to a doctor, even just for regular check-ups. Over time, her uneasiness with physicians evolved into a fear of what an inevitable doctor visit might reveal – such as a serious illness or condition -- so she took an “out of sight, out of mind attitude” to health care, even though she had health insurance coverage.

But when her Medicare Advantage offered a helper to give Norma a hand with everything from shopping for groceries to light house cleaning, her thinking started to change. Over the next several weeks, Norma found a friend she could trust, and that trust inspired her to end her marathon health care reluctance. She now sees her primary care doctors and specialists and is catching up on some long overdue dental work.

The helper is known as a “Papa Pal,” a real person and a unique benefit offered by Papa, Inc. to support Medicare-eligible, independent seniors and their way of life. The benefit is now part of every Braven Health Medicare Advantage plan for 2022.

“The lifestyles and health goals among older New Jerseyans evolve over time, and we know that many of our members are at a stage where they need just a little added support to maintain their independence,” said Luisa Y. Charbonneau, Chief Executive Officer of Braven Health. “Through our new relationship with Papa, we’re now able to provide members with companions who can help them with everyday tasks.” She noted that these tasks often tie directly to members’ health, such as providing a ride so that they can keep a doctor appointment or to undergo a treatment or therapy that keeps them well.

Papa was formed in 2017 as an on-demand service to provide assistance and companionship to older adults and families. The company’s mission was shaped by its founder and CEO, Andrew Parker, who experienced first-hand the difficulties of caring for a loved one in his family and created the model that is now being offered by Papa.

“Papa is named after my grandfather, whose quality-of-life was markedly improved after my family hired a caretaker to help with day-to-day support in his home,” Parker said. “When I started Papa, I aimed to pair technology with humanity to assist our valuable older adult population. Our Pals are the eyes and ears for our health plan partners, helping identify and advocate for member needs. The model has proven successful with older adults, and we’re honored to continue that impact for so many more, especially vulnerable populations, as we rapidly expand.” Since its 2017 founding, Papa and its Papa Pals now serve older Americans in 50 states through 65 Medicare AdvantageMedicaid plans as well as employer benefits.

The Papa benefit for Braven Health members comes with up to 24 hours per year of in-home or virtual support services with a Papa Pal, with options to purchase additional hours, such as through Braven Health flexible benefits. Papa Pals feature young adults who are vetted and trained to be home aides for seniors. However, the service caters to members who prefer older companions as well.

Ms. Charbonneau explained that at the very heart of the Papa Pals is a person who connects with the Braven Health member in a tangible way, but the greatest benefit may be the intangible impact of the relationship, such as in Norma’s case.

“For many older New Jerseyans, loneliness is one of life’s most serious health consequences,” she said. “The sadness of isolation can lead to depression, which can manifest in many other ways that effect physical health, such as an increased risk of heart attack. So, having a companion who can spend time with you, play a board game, or just to chat with over a cup of coffee can have a transformative impact on a person’s mood and health. When we created Braven Health in 2020, we said we would break the mold of the traditional Medicare Advantage company, so Papa is another way we are making good on that promise of innovation and meeting our member’s needs.”

Five things to know about Papa Pals

Multi-taskers. Pals help Braven Health members with light house work, meal prep, transportation and other physical chores and errands.

Multi-Lingual. Papa Pals speak English, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, French Creole.

Tech-Savvy. They are adept at helping older members navigate smart phones, telehealth and other tech tools that help Braven members access health and pharmacy services.

Well-Vetted. Papa performs a comprehensive application and background check process and Papa Pals complete rigorous orientation and training. Only 10% of Papa Pal applicants are hired because of this stringent process.

Covid-Screened. Prior to each home visit, Papa Pals are asked COVID-19 screening questions; they also wear masks.

To learn more about plan benefits available to Medicare Advantage members, visit Braven Health, which is offered in eight New Jersey counties -- Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic and Union. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) begins on October 15 and ends on December 7.