Last week, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) announced the first group of organizations for Health Care Innovation awards. As readers may already know, CMMI was established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to test innovative payment and delivery models that have the potential to reduce costs while preserving or enhancing the quality of care. The awards recently announced are part of CMMI’s Health Care Innovation Challenge, which is granting up to $1 billion to applicants who can implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health care and to improve care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), particularly for those with the highest health care needs. Awards range from approximately $1 million to $30 million for a three-year period and focus on key CMS priorities areas:

  • • Workforce Development and Deployment
  • • Speed to Implementation
  • • Model Sustainability
This is exciting stuff. There isn’t one magic bullet to solve the problems of low-quality, uncoordinated care and escalating health care costs. The CMMI grants will provide much-needed investments in promising approaches across the country to see if they can be brought to scale and expanded.

This a particularly wonderful opportunity for grantees like Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, New Jersey, which was already testing an innovative model of care and now can expand the model even further. Using its new CMMI grant, Cooper will continue to work with Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP), a faith-based community organization affiliated with the PICO National Network, and Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (CCHP), which is led by Dr. Jeffrey Brenner. For the last few years, CCOP and CCHP have been working together to help low-income Camden residents improve their access to health care and reduce avoidable emergency room visits. Now, both will be working with Cooper to reach out to even more Camden residents and “super-utilizers” to improve their health. CCOP’s role will be to work with Cooper to identify and train 14 health care workers to serve as part of multidisciplinary care teams.

Cooper’s decision to work in partnership with consumer advocates is a clear acknowledgement that their participation is one of the keys to success. The Innovation Challenge presents a unique opportunity for advocates and community-based organizations to work with hospitals, providers and payers to develop a truly patient-centered delivery system.

The next announcement of CMMI grantees is slated for early June 2012. We hope CMMI – and their grantees – will take their cues from Camden and prioritize grants that build in consumer involvement from the start.

Readers can find detailed project descriptions of all grantees on the CMS Innovation Center website.

— Leena Sharma, State Advocacy Manager, Integrated Care Advocacy Project