Feds Provide $27 Million to Fund, Test Chronic Disease Programs

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media , March 30, 2010

In hopes of improving the nation's physical fitness and reducing chronic disease, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $27 million worth of grants Tuesday.

The federal Administration on Aging will administer the grants that come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grants will be spread over 45 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The program includes at least $1 million grants for a number of states, including California, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

"Prevention activities can strengthen the nation's healthcare infrastructure and reduce healthcare costs," said Sebelius, in a statement. "These new grants will provide an important opportunity for states, tribes, territories, and communities to advance public health across the lifespan and to help reduce or eliminate health disparities."

The funding will likely provide an additional spark to the population health management industry, which should already benefit from the 32 million newly insured in the health reform package approved last week as well as other provisions in the legislation.

"The ARRA provides important support for programs to fight chronic disease, and we applaud the administration's continued commitment to prevention and wellness," said Tracey Moorhead, DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance president and CEO. “DMAA members have successfully partnered with state Medicaid and other programs, as well as public health departments, to improve chronic condition management. We look forward to contributing to this initiative and others, including those under the new health care reform law."

Officials hope the programs can make a dent in Medicare's chronic disease care costs. According to CMS, two-thirds of Medicare spending is for beneficiaries with five or more chronic conditions.

"The number of older adults with chronic conditions will increase dramatically in the coming years as our aging population grows," said Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee, in a statement. "This opportunity will allow states to build the foundation for an infrastructure that embeds health prevention programs into the nation's health and long-term care system and expands a system of care that addresses the growing prevalence of chronic conditions."

Federal officials see the grant program as more than funding chronic disease programs. The initiative will also test which programs are successful.

HHS said state agencies on aging, public health departments, and Medicaid agencies will work together to "support the deployment of evidence-based chronic disease self-management programs." Organizations that received the grants will serve as least 50,000 older adults "and gather evidence regarding the impact of these programs on health behavior and health status outcomes of the participants."

The project will include collaboration between CMS and the Administration on Aging to conduct a pilot in one state to test quality. The project will track Medicare claims from the chronic disease self-management program participants and Medicare beneficiaries not participating in the program.

Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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