HHS Announces Innovative Model to Address Health-Related Social Needs
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.
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