Medicare to tackle social needs, not just medical ones

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services today announced a pilot project aimed at improving patients' health by addressing their social needs

The $157 million project will test whether screening beneficiaries for health-related social needs and steering them toward services will improve quality and affordability in Medicare and Medicaid.

Many 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, they could increase the risk of chronic medical conditions.

The 5-year program is called the Accountable Health Communities model.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says it's important to recognize keeping people healthy isn't just about what happens in a doctor's office.

So Medicare and Medicaid are testing the new approach.

Funds will be used to support 44 bridge organizations to screen recipients for health-related social needs.

Initially, the evaluation will focus on measures such as emergency room visits, inpatient hospital readmissions, and total health care costs.