Compelling evidence shows that social supports help promote good health. So, as part of its mandate to test innovations under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is testing an Accountable Health Communities Model intended to bridge the gap in services between clinical care and community services in today’s health care system. CMS is assessing whether identifying and addressing the “social determinants of health”–social needs related to health care–can both promote better health and rein in overall health care spending.
The Accountable Health Communities Model draws from evidence demonstrating that when you link health care services to community services you can improve people’s health and lower costs. The Model will address housing instability, food insecurity, utility needs, interpersonal violence and transportation needs.
Community services may include ensuring people eat healthy meals, have stable housing and can access needed health care services. People who are ill-nourished, living in unstable conditions and not able to access needed health care are more prone to chronic disease and have costly health care needs.
CMS will be testing the Accountable Health Communities Model through 44 contracts with a range of agencies over five years. It will assess three different interventions with different levels of service. The simplest intervention is designed to make people more aware of local services they can partake of. The middle-level intervention will help people at high-risk access services. And the most intensive intervention will ensure that people have access to needed community services.
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