HHS Announces Innovative Model to Address Health-Related Social Needs
January 13, 2016 02:36 PM
The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a new funding opportunity of up to $157 million to test whether screening beneficiaries for health-related social needs and associated referrals to and navigation of community-based services will improve quality and affordability in Medicare and Medicaid. Many of these social issues, such as housing instability, hunger, and interpersonal violence, affect individuals’ health, yet they may not be detected or addressed during typical health care-related visits. Over time, these unmet needs may increase the risk of developing chronic conditions and reduce an individual’s ability to manage these conditions, resulting in increased health care utilization and costs.
Award recipients under this model, referred to as “bridge organizations,” will oversee the screening of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries for social and behavioral issues, such as housing instability, food insecurity, utility needs, interpersonal violence, and transportation limitations, and help them connect with and/or navigate the appropriate community-based services. For example, a patient who isn’t taking his medication because he or she lacks transportation to the pharmacy would be referred to federal, state or local assistance programs. Some bridge organizations will assist beneficiaries in applying for community-based services, such as the Low Income Home Energy Program, which can provide much-needed assistance with utility bills and allow beneficiaries to maintain their medication supply rather than having to choose between maintaining their health or paying their heating bill.
The model will test three scalable approaches to addressing health-related social needs and linking clinical and community services – community referral, community service navigation, and community service alignment. Bridge organizations will inventory local community agencies and provide referrals to those agencies as needed. They may also provide intensive community service navigation such as in-depth assessment, planning, and follow-up until needs are resolved or determined to be unresolvable for high-risk beneficiaries.
The pilot allows participants to assess community services and encourage partner alignment to ensure these services are available and responsive to the needs of beneficiaries. This continuous quality improvement approach includes organizing an advisory board and data sharing to inform a gap analysis and quality improvement plan.
To measure the effectiveness of the model on impacting total cost of health care utilization and quality of care, the primary evaluation will focus on reduction in total health care costs, emergency department visits, and impatient hospital readmissions.
Eligible applicants for the Accountable Health Communities (AHC) model are community-based organizations, hospitals and health systems, institutions of higher education, local government entities, tribal organizations, and for-profit and not-for-profit local and national entities with the capacity to develop and maintain a referral network with clinical delivery sites and community service providers. Applications will be due in early 2016 and CMS anticipates announcing awards in the fall of 2016.
To view a fact sheet on the AHC Model or for more information, including the Funding Opportunity Announcement, please visit: https://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/ahcm.
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