HHS Earmarks $1B for Healthcare Jobs, Innovation

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , November 15, 2011

The program will focus on beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP, particularly those with the most urgent healthcare needs. The announcement comes on the heels of a critical report released last week by the National Association of Medicaid Directors that points to a lack of attention the Medicaid program has received in the area of innovation and implementation of healthcare reform.

The innovation challenge is open to providers, payers, local government, community-based organizations, and public-private partnerships. Awards will range from $1 million to $30 million. Potential applicants must submit a letter of intent by Dec. 19. Final applications are due Jan. 27 and grant recipients will be announced March 30. Projects must be up and running within six months. Berwick added that the projects must be sustainable and "capable of being rapidly delegated to other areas of the country."

Projects, which will be funded over three years, will be evaluated and monitored to make sure they produce measurable improvements in care quality and cost savings.

The CMS Center for Innovation will oversee the program. In his comments, Berwick praised the Center's work citing its bundled payments program, primary care initiative and the Pioneer ACO program as helping achieve the triple aim: better care, better health and lower costs. The comments came as some members of Congress called on the Government Accountability Office to look into Innovation Center's activities. The center is funded with $10 billion as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The Health Care Innovation Challenge announcement came just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear a challenge to the individual mandate section of the ACA. When asked for her reaction, Sebelius said the administration has confidence that the legislation will prevail and welcomes the opportunity "to put to bed once and for all the possibility that healthcare reform will disappear."

Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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