HHS Unveils New Community-Focused Accountable Care Model

A new 5-year program has been created to focus on the health-related social needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

A new 5-year program has been created to focus on the health-related social needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. HHS announced the new Accountable Health Communities Model from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center on Tuesday. The program is a funding opportunity of up to $157 million and will test whether screening beneficiaries for health-related social needs can improve quality and affordability.

The model will build alignment between clinical and community-based services so that beneficiaries struggling with unmet health-related social needs are aware of the services available to them and can receive assistance if needed.

“We recognize that keeping people healthy is about more than what happens inside a doctor’s office, and that’s why, for the first time, we are testing whether screening patients for health-related social needs and connecting them to local community resources like housing and transportation to the doctor will ultimately improve their health and reduce the cost to taxpayers,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “The Accountable Health Communities model is yet another step towards building a health care system that results in healthier people and stronger communities and spends our health care dollars more wisely.”

The model will oversee the screening of beneficiaries for issues such as housing instability, food insecurity, utility needs, interpersonal violence, and transportation limitations. Funding from the Affordable Care Act through the Accountable Health Communities Model will support up to 44 recipients, called “bridge organizations.”

The model will test 3 approaches: community referral, community service navigation, and community service alignment. To measure the effectiveness of the model, bridge organizations will be evaluated on reduction in total healthcare costs, emergency department visits, and inpatient hospital readmissions.

“For decades, we’ve known that social needs profoundly affect health, and this model will help us understand which strategies work to help improve health and spend dollars more wisely,” said Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, CMS deputy administrator and chief medical officer. “We will learn how health and health care improvements can be achieved through strong partnerships and linkages at the community level.”

Applications will be due March 31, 2016, with the recipients announced in the fall of 2016. Learn more about the model here.