Healthcare News & Insights

Feds offer funding to hospitals for improving public health

For hospitals that want to take a more active role in boosting the health of their patient mix, but don’t have the funding in their budgets to do so, there’s good news. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced a new initiative that’ll give funding to facilities for improving public health. 

ThinkstockPhotos-454983761According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) website, the new program is called the Accountable Health Communities Model.

Under the five-year program, CMS wants hospitals and other healthcare providers to find ways to help disadvantaged people become aware of the services available in their area and use them appropriately.

In all, HHS and CMS plan to distribute up to $157 million to participants, referred to as “bridge organizations,” as part of the program.

Bridge organizations will have to screen all Medicare and Medicaid patients to identify whether they’re facing specific social issues such as hunger, housing instability, transportation issues or interpersonal violence. They would then refer patients to the appropriate resources in hopes of improving their situation.

Example: A patient who isn’t taking her medications because she can’t afford them after paying utility bills could be referred to services such as the Low Income Home Energy Program to get assistance for some of the cost.

Program details

According to the website for the program, CMS will divide bridge organizations into three tracks:

  1. Awareness. Organizations must work to increase patients’ awareness of available community services via referrals and information dissemination.
  2. Assistance. Organizations have to help high-risk patients navigate the system to access services.
  3. Alignment. Organizations must encourage alignment among various community organizations, healthcare providers and other social-service groups to ensure that services are available and helpful to patients.

The success of the Accountable Health Communities Model will be gauged based on reductions in emergency department visits, inpatient hospital readmissions and total healthcare costs.

CMS offers participants in each track of the initiative different levels of funding. The money can’t be used to give patients any community services directly or indirectly. Rather, it should be used to defray the costs associated with helping patients connect with other community organizations that could offer them assistance.

Interested hospitals can find more about submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Accountable Health Communities Model by visiting innovationgov.force.com/ahc. While hospitals can apply to participate in more than one track, they’ll only be selected for one track.

All letters of intent are due by February 6, and the full application is due by March 31. Awards should be announced in the fall.

This program is an excellent opportunity for your hospital to start collaborating with outside organizations to provide more value-based care to patients – and to get paid for the effort you’re making. It’s worth seeing if your facility is able to meet CMS’ requirements for participation.

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