Beginning next year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will authorize Medicare Advantage plans to pay for some health-related but non-medical benefits for their members – benefits that will help address social determinants of health that affect the health status of many Medicare beneficiaries.
As explained by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at a recent event in Salt Lake City,
These interventions can keep seniors out of the hospital, which we are increasingly realizing is not just a cost saver but actually an important way to protect their health, too. If seniors do end up going to the hospital, making sure they can get out as soon as possible with the appropriate rehab services is crucial to good outcomes and low cost as well. If a senior can be accommodated at home rather than an inpatient rehab facility or a [skilled nursing facility], they should be.
According to Azar, HHS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation will be looking for new ways to address social determinants of health that have an impact on Medicare beneficiaries’ health.
What if we provided more than connections and referrals? What if we provided solutions for the whole person including addressing housing, nutrition and other social needs all together? What if we gave organizations who work with us more flexibility so they can pay beneficiaries’ rent if they are in unstable housing or make sure that a diabetic has access to and can afford nutritious food? If that sounds like an exciting idea, then stay tuned to what CMMI is up to.
During the gathering, Azar made similar comments about Medicaid, suggesting that in the near future, federal Medicaid funds might soon be used for non-health-related benefits as well.
Learn more about Secretary Azar’s plans for addressing social determinants of health in this Fierce Healthcare article.