Patients’ social and economic circumstances powerfully influence their health and well-being. But until recently there’s been relatively little effort to systematically address these factors. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, a government organization established by the Affordable Care Act, is trying to change that. It recently announced a pilot program to help health systems close gaps between medical care and social services in their communities.
The program, known as Accountable Health Communities, will invest $157 million over five years to study whether helping patients with social needs in five key areas—housing, food, utilities, transportation, and interpersonal safety—can improve health and reduce medical costs.There’s good evidence that social support can improve health and cut costs. Research suggests nutrition assistance for low-income women and children reduces the risk of low birth weight, infant mortality, and developmental problems—at a cost that’s more than fully offset by lower Medicaid spending. Other work suggests providing elderly patients with home-delivered meals can help them live independently and prevent expensive nursing home stays.
The program will award grants to 44 organizations around the country to build partnerships among state Medicaid agencies, health systems, and community service providers to identify which strategies are most effective for linking patients to the services they need.
Source: New York Times, 7/20/16, Food for Health