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Vermont Blue Advantage Partners with SASH

Vermont Blue Advantage and Cathedral Square have formed a partnership to launch a Support and Services at Home (SASH®) pilot that will support the health of older Vermonters by providing comprehensive services in their homes. Participants will have the support of the SASH team, which includes local area agencies on aging, community mental health centers, home health agencies, primary and community care teams, and regional hospitals. Initially the program will be offered to 300 Vermont Blue Advantage members who live in Chittenden County. Participation is voluntary, with services provided free of charge. 

“We are thrilled to embark on this partnership with SASH, a Vermont-grown organization that has received national recognition for their support of older Vermonters,” said Pam Getsie, Plan President of Vermont Blue Advantage. 

In 2022, Vermont Blue Advantage begins its second year of providing health care to Medicare-enrolled Vermonters regardless of health status or pre-existing conditions. All Vermont Blue Advantage plans bundle the components of traditional Medicare into one seamless health insurance plan. Additionally. all individual plans include dental, vision and hearing benefits. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont formed Vermont Blue Advantage to exclusively meet the needs of older Vermonters and retirees from Vermont businesses, this new partnership with SASH is the plan’s latest innovation. 

Since its launch 10 years ago, SASH has supported Medicare-enrolled Vermonters at home throughout the state by coordinating care and providing programming to support health, wellness and prevention. The evidence-based program has a proven track record of lowering costs, increasing quality of life, and improving health, particularly with regard to managing high blood pressure and diabetes. In addition, SASH has been found to reduce the use of emergency rooms for treatment. 

Traditionally, SASH has served Medicare recipients and others living in affordable housing or nearby, but the Vermont Blue Advantage pilot will bring SASH services directly to Vermont Blue Advantage members living at home. Each participant will be assigned a SASH wellness nurse and care coordinator, who will serve as a trusted team in supporting the participant’s holistic health and wellness. Participants will receive annual health assessments, regular help with coordinating care, education about managing chronic diseases, medication support, and group education and wellness programming. 

Participants will decide when and how often they wish to connect with SASH. “The SASH coordinator and wellness nurse reach out to support them and provide encouragement in reaching their goals,” says Kim Fitzgerald, CEO of Cathedral Square, which administers SASH statewide. “In addition, they can step in when issues arise. If a participant is experiencing side effects from a new medication, for example, the nurse can call the provider to discuss the appropriate next step,” she explains. 

“We’re taking that one step further with telehealth,” adds Fitzgerald. “We can help a participant conduct a telehealth visit with their provider while the SASH nurse is right there at home with them, performing some of the same functions they would in a provider’s office—taking blood pressure, weight, etc. – so the provider has real-time vitals.” 

In addition to the focus on health and wellness, there is a social component to SASH. “For example, we might combine a blood pressure clinic with a group class on sodium intake or a walking group,” Fitzgerald says. “We are able to tailor what we offer to what our participants would benefit from most. Programs like these help people connect and reduce social isolation, which is a common concern – and a very real health concern – among older adults.”

Says Getsie of Vermont Blue Advantage, “What is so compelling about this partnership is that two Vermont-grown organizations are coming together to support all aspects of Vermonters’ health and wellness, right where they live. Innovative support services and care for each other is what we are all about.”  

While SASH will coordinate care for Vermont Blue Advantage members enrolled in the pilot, Vermont Blue Advantage will continue to deliver care-coordination services to all other members. 

Vermont Blue Advantage is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, as is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, which is Vermont’s only local, not-for-profit health plan. For over 30 years, BCBS of Vermont has been enhancing the health and well-being of the Vermonters by offering innovative plans to individuals and businesses. Its employees are dedicated to developing new ways to support high-quality care and programs and events that promote wellness.

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