Aligning for Health Applauds SDOH Inclusions in FY2023 House Appropriations Report

On June 29, 2022, the House Committee on Appropriations released the Report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations. The report includes specific instructions with respect to the appropriated amounts.

Aligning for Health was thrilled to see the many inclusions to support forward movement in addressing social determinants of health, health equity, and maternal health. Notable language in the report includes:

  • CDC – Social Determinants of Health. —The Committee includes an increase of $92,000,000 to award competitive grants to State, local, territorial, or tribal jurisdictions to support the development of Social Determinants of Health Accelerator Plans, the implementation of those plans, and to improve the health of Medicaid beneficiaries. Such plans should include a description of the health and social outcome objectives of the Social Determinants Accelerator Plan; identify target populations that would benefit from implementation of the plan including Medicaid-eligible individuals; and identify non-governmental, private, or public health organizations and community organizations that would participate in the development of the plan. Grantees may use a portion of grant funding to convene government entities, public and private stakeholders, and to engage qualified research experts in developing Accelerator Plans.
  • CMS – Utilization of Z Codes for Social Determinants of Health. —The Committee commends CMS for publishing a report on the Utilization of Z codes for SDOH among Medicare FFS beneficiaries. As the report notes, the COVID–19 pandemic has disproportionately affected underserved communities. The Committee is concerned about whether the current Z codes definitions are expansive and specific enough to track the SDOH impacting underserved communities. To help reduce these barriers, the Committee encourages HHS to update the current Z code definitions and establish a national standard to review SDOH to ensure physicians nationwide use the same tools to analyze SDOH. The Committee requests a briefing within 180 days of the date of enactment of this Act on the current utilization of Z codes, how HHS suggests the Z codes definitions could be updated to better track SDOH impacting underserved communities and recommendations on how to increase the utilization of Z codes.
  • CMS – Social Determinants of Health Analytics. —The Committee is encouraged that Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) have stated an intent to employ strategies to address SDOH, and the Committee supports work on SDOH given historic inequities that have existed among at-risk populations like communities of color and rural communities. However, in constructing SDOH-based recommendations for beneficiaries, many health plans are regularly using what is described as ‘‘consumer data,’’ which includes clinical, social, economic, behavioral, and environmental data that is individually identified, sometimes combining or allowing other entities to combine it with protected medical information governed by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The Committee requests a report within 180 days of the date of enactment of this Act on efforts by CMS to ensure the transparency by MA and MCO plans in the use of data of beneficiaries in addressing SDOH, how CMS ensures that MA and MCO plans notify beneficiaries of the use of protected or consumer data, and how ongoing CMS work with MA and MCOs around SDOH and the use of consumer data and protected medical information aligns with and improves health equity as per the goals of Executive Order 13985 and the HHS’s Equity Action Plan.
  • HHS Office of the Secretary – Social Determinants of Health. —The Committee directs the Social Determinants Council created by House Report 116–450 to continue to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions in this program. The Committee requests a report within 90 days of the date of enactment of this Act on the status of the selection of all Council members.
  • CDC – Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH).The Committee includes a total increase of $10,000,000 to continue scaling this program to all States and territories, and to support grantees in building capacity for collaboration and disseminating evidence-based strategies in communities. REACH is a vital initiative to help eliminate healthcare disparities in minority communities. The Committee’s recommended level includes an increase of $4,000,000 for Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country.
  • HRSA – Addressing Emerging Issues and Social Determinants of Maternal Health. — The Committee includes $10,000,000 to create an innovation fund for community-based organizations to support reducing maternal mortality and adverse maternal outcomes, as described in the fiscal year 2023 budget request. Projects may include expanding access to maternal mental health and SUD services, providing resources to address social determinants of maternal health, developing digital tools to enhance maternal health care, and technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models for pregnant and postpartum women.

Below, we have pulled notable report language related to social determinants of health, health equity, and maternal health that were included as part of this report for the HHS Office of the Secretary, Assistant Secretary for Health, CMS, CDC, SAMHSA, HRSA, HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH), and HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

AFH - FY23 House Appropriations Report Summary - 29 June 2022
2022-06-30T19:11:04+00:00June 30th, 2022|Press, Press Release|

Rep. Robin Kelly Introduces Health Equity and Accountability Act, Includes SDAA

On April 26, 2022, Reb. Robin Kelly (D-IL), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2022 (H.R. 7585), which would address social determinants of health, reduce racial and ethnic health inequities, improve access for underserved communities, address maternal health, and more.

Aligning for Health appreciates Rep. Kelly’s leadership on this legislation, and was particularly excited to see the inclusion of the Social Determinants Accelerator Act within this package. The provision included within HEAA would establish an interagency council on social determinants of health and award grants to eligible entities for the development of social determinants accelerator plans.

For more information on the Health Equity and Accountability Act, see the press release, one-pager, and section-by-section.

2022-04-27T14:44:07+00:00April 27th, 2022|Press, Press Release|

Aligning for Health submits comments in response to White House OSTP RFI

Aligning for Health submitted comments in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) request for information on Strengthening Community Health Through Technology.

Digital health technologies – which the request for information defines as tools that improve health or enable better health care delivery by connecting people with other people, with data or with health information – are critical aspects of successful initiatives to address health and social needs.

As such, Aligning for Health provided feedback on questions related to the tools, training and infrastructure needs of community-based organizations to utilize digital health technologies, and to information about how digital health technologies have or could be used in community-based settings to achieve health equity.

To read our comments, click here or see below:

AFH - White House OSTP RFI - 31 March 2022
2022-03-30T20:40:00+00:00March 30th, 2022|Press Release|

Aligning for Health Submits Comments to the Healthy Future Task Force

Aligning for Health submitted comments to the Healthy Future Task Force, Security Subcommittee on its recent request for information on pandemic preparedness, public health, and supply chains. The goal of the Healthy Future Task Force is to build on Republican health policy goals and craft patient-focused agendas for the future.

Specifically, Aligning for Health commented on questions related to addressing social determinants of health and maternal health as part of a broader public health strategy.

Generally, our comments fall into several themes –

  • Reduce silos between existing efforts funded by governments and encourage more collaboration.
  • Improve the screening and collection of social needs data to improve interventions and evaluate outcomes.
  • Enhance coordination between government and non-government organizations working to address social needs through shared regional networks that support coordination, information sharing and referrals.

To read our comments, click here or see below:

AFH - Healthy Future Task Force Security Subcommittee RFI - 30 March 2022
2022-03-30T20:28:28+00:00March 30th, 2022|Press Release|

President’s Budget for FY2023 Includes Key Provisions Related to SDOH

On March 28, 2022, President Biden released his Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget request. The budget proposes $127.3 billion in discretionary and $1.7 trillion in mandatory budget authority for the Department of Health and Human Services for FY 2023.

The budget demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to areas such as health equity and maternal health, among other priority areas. According to HHS, “It also advances equity through the work of the federal government and helps ensure our programs serve people of color and other marginalized populations with the opportunities promised to all Americans.”

Aligning for Health was pleased to see the inclusion of several key provisions related to SDOH, health equity, and maternal health in this budget request, including $153 million in funding to the CDC for the Social Determinants of Health program. Through this particular request, CDC will continue to expand SDOH efforts by funding another round of Social Determinant Accelerator Plans to states, tribes, territories, and/or localities to develop or enhance existing SDOH plans and sustained funding to support SDOH implementation program, evaluation, research, and data collection efforts.

For a full summary of the SDOH-related provisions included in the request, click here or see below:

AFH- FY23 Presidents Budget - Summary - 28 March 2022
2022-03-29T20:31:13+00:00March 29th, 2022|Press Release|

Aligning for Health applauds key SDOH provisions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022

On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (H.R. 2471). This bill consisted of all 12 fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills and supplemental funding to support Ukraine. The House passed this bill on March 9, 2022, and the Senate passed it on March 10, 2022.

Aligning for Health was pleased to see the inclusion of several key social determinants of health provisions included in this package. Along with the appropriations bill, the accompanying Joint Explanatory Statement and House Committee on Appropriations Report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations included specific instructions with respect to the appropriated amounts.

Below, we have pulled notable provisions related to social determinants of health, health equity, and maternal health that were included as part of this package. You can also find a summary of these provisions here.

AFH - FY22 Consolidated Appropriations Summary - 11 March 2022
2022-03-18T15:05:17+00:00March 18th, 2022|Press Release|

Aligning for Health submits comments on CMS MA and Part D proposed rule

Aligning for Health submitted comments in response to the proposal for Improving Experiences for Dually Eligible Individuals: Standardizing Housing, Food Insecurity, and Transportation Questions on Health Risk Assessments (§ 422.101) within the CMS Contract Year 2023 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs.

Aligning for Health supports CMS’ proposal to require Special Needs Plans (SNPs) to include one or more standardized questions on the topics of housing stability, food insecurity, and access to transportation as part of Health Risk Assessments. We believe that these questions will help SNPs gather the necessary information to inform the development and implementation of each enrollee’s comprehensive individualized plan of care. Further, information from social needs screenings should be used to connect enrollees to covered services or resources to help meet their needs, if consistent with the enrollee’s goals and preferences.

To read the letter, click here or see below:

AFH - MA Part D Rule - Final
2022-03-07T16:37:48+00:00March 7th, 2022|Press Release|

Aligning for Health submits comments on CMS Advance Notice for CY2023

Aligning for Health submitted comments in response to the CMS Advance Notice of Methodological Changes for CY2023 for Medicare Advantage Capitation Rates and Part C and Part D Payment Policies.

Aligning for Health was pleased to see CMS propose the following potential new measure concepts and methodological enhancements for future years in the Advance Notice and provided recommendations for CMS to consider in developing these concepts:

  • Measure of Contracts’ Assessment of Beneficiary Needs (Part C), which would be developed by CMS and would assess whether a contract’s enrollees have had their health-related social needs assessed, using a standardized screening tool; and
  • Screening and Referral to Services for Social Needs (Part C), which is being developed by NCQA and would assess screening for unmet needs and referral to intervention for those who screened positive.

To read the letter, click here or see below:

AFH - CY23 Advance Notice Letter - Final
2022-03-07T16:40:02+00:00March 7th, 2022|Press Release|

Aligning for Health submits comments to Senate HELP Committee leaders in response to PREVENT Pandemics Act request for comments

On Friday, February 4, Aligning for Health sent a letter to Senate HELP Committee leadership in response to request for comments on the discussion draft of the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act).

Aligning for Health strongly supports the Committee’s inclusion of Section 201, Addressing Social Determinants of Health and Improving Health Outcomes, in the discussion draft. In its comments, Aligning for Health encouraged the Committee to consider including bipartisan legislation that would further promote interoperable network development and data sharing; development of evidence-based approaches to coordinate services and improve outcomes; and strengthen capacity to identify and address disparities across sectors.

To read the letter, click here.

2022-02-07T15:18:32+00:00February 7th, 2022|Press, Press Release|

More than 50 organizations send letter to Senate HELP Committee requesting the inclusion of the LINC to Address Social Needs Act in the PREVENT Pandemics Act legislative package

Today, 54 organizations sent a letter to Senate HELP Committee Chair Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Burr (R-NC) in response to the request for comments on the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act). This bipartisan legislation is focused on strengthening the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response systems in the wake of COVID-19.

Section 201 of the PREVENT Pandemics Act discussion draft focused on addressing social determinants of health and improving health outcomes. To strengthen this section of the bill, this stakeholder letter asked the committee to consider including the bipartisan LINC to Address Social Needs Act (S. 509/H.R. 6072) in the final legislative text of the PREVENT Pandemics Act.

While Section 201 of the draft includes elements of the LINC to Address Social Needs Act, including the entirety of this legislation would provide increased and dedicated funding to support cross-sector, interoperable efforts to coordinate and address health-related social needs for those most vulnerable to the impacts of the current and future pandemics.

The letter can be found here and below:

AFH Stakeholder Letter - PREVENT Pandemics Act - 4 Feb 2022
2022-02-04T21:37:23+00:00February 4th, 2022|Press, Press Release|
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