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CMS Signals Interest in Social Determinants of Health Care

In a speech Alex Azar revealed that the agency has a responsibility to address patients’ social needs and that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is working on a pilot model.

“In our very name and structure, we are set up to think about all the needs of vulnerable Americans, not just their healthcare needs,” Azar said. “What if we went beyond connections and referrals? What if we provide solutions for the whole person, including addressing housing, nutrition and other social needs? What if we gave organizations more flexibility so they could pay a beneficiary’s rent if they were in unstable housing or make sure that a diabetic had access to, and could afford, nutritious food? If that sounds like an exciting idea … I want you to stay tuned to what CMMI is up to.”

Healthcare organizations welcomed the news as most recognize that being able to address patients’ social needs is going to be critical as they are paid more for outcomes and less for direct medical services. There currently isn’t a direct reimbursement mechanism to support such investments, so health systems largely use their own pocketbooks, which is unsustainable long-term.

Read more in Modern Healthcare (subscription may be required).

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