Health Care and Community-Based Organization Partnerships to Address Social Needs: Medicare Advantage Plan Representatives' Perspectives

Shayla N. M. Durfey
Emily A. Gadbois
David J. Meyers
Joan F. Brazier
Terrie Wetle
Kali S. Thomas
Peer-Reviewed Article
April 2021


Medicare Advantage (MA) plans report different barriers to partnering with community-based organizations, but there are strategies to develop effective partnerships.


Since the 2018 passage of the CHRONIC Care Act, MA plans have new flexibilities to address social needs through supplemental benefits. Some MA plans have pursued partnerships with CBOs to address members’ social needs such as food and housing, but there has been limited research on how these partnerships develop and the barriers to partnership development. This qualitative study explores the perspectives of MA plan representatives, representing 65 percent of MA members nationally, on developing and maintaining partnerships with CBOs.


MA plans have widespread interest in working with CBOs to address health-related social needs, but do experience some barriers to partnership. When initiating partnerships, MA plans reported seeking out CBOs with aligned missions, evidence on the impact of services, desired infrastructure, and knowledge of MA operations. MA plans, however, may have impractical expectations for potential CBO partners, and CBOs can struggle to communicate the value of their services to MA plans. This article details strategies for CBOs and MA plans to develop sustainable partnerships to better address members’ social needs.


While MA plans and CBOs have increased opportunities for collaboration, their unaligned infrastructures may create barriers to partnership. These groups can better develop and maintain effective partnerships through training, data collection and measurement skills, and understanding the operational concerns of their potential partners.

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