The U.S. government will award up to $1 billion in grants for innovative health care ideas that drive down medical costs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in conjunction with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Wednesday.
On a conference call with reporters, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the country has made strides in reducing medical costs, and national health care spending has fallen to a 50-year low. However, she said there is still more to do.
"Bringing down health care costs is our top priority," said Sebelius.
The secretary cited strides in medical cost reductions since the implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. She pointed out that bloodstream infections tied to medical errors have fallen by 40 percent since 2008, and hospital readmission rates have also fallen recently.
The announcement marks the second round of the Health Care Innovation Awards. During the first round, about $900 million was awarded, said Dr. Richard Gilfillan, director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.
For the first round, 107 awards were handed out of nearly 3,000 applications. The secretary referenced that award winners included Christiana Care in Wilmington, Del. and the University of Miami, which revamped school-based clinics for children into "medical homes."
Round one looked at broader strategies for improving health care, so for round two, the government is focusing on four specific areas:
- Models that are designed to rapidly reduce Medicare, Medicaid, and/or Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) costs in outpatient and/or post-acute settings
- Models that improve care for populations with specialized needs, such as children or people with HIV
- Models that test approaches for specific types of providers like oncologists or cardiologists to transform their financial and clinical models
- Models that improve the health of populations through activities focused on engaging beneficiaries, wellness and prevention (for example, a diabetes prevention program or a hypertension prevention program) that extend beyond the clinical service delivery setting
CMS will accept letters of intent beginning June 1 until June 28, 2013 3:00 p.m. ET and will start taking applications beginning June 14 until August 15, 2013 3:00 p.m. ET.
More information on the program can be found on CMS' website.