House lawmakers want government agencies to team up to manage needs like food, housing and transportation for certain groups in Medicaid, in what stands as the first federal proposal on social determinants of health.
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) introduced the bill to launch a multi-agency council and fund $25 million in grants for "Social Determinants Accelerator Plans."
The plans are supposed to focus on particular groups of people on Medicaid, such as the homeless, elderly nursing home residents or women with postpartum depression. Up to 20% of the funding would be earmarked for people who live in rural areas.
The group behind this legislation is a coalition of hospitals and insurers called Aligning for Health. Members include the American Hospital Association, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Humana, Molina and UPMC.
A representative for the group said the bill "does not contemplate future funding," but is aimed at improving coordinated efforts between programs for vulnerable groups.
Social determinants of health are a growing buzzword in health policy. Earlier this week HHS Secretary Alex Azar hinted to a crowd of Medicare Advantage insurers that the Trump administration could expand supplemental benefits in the program to mitigate extenuating circumstances of patients.
AHA vice president Tom Nickels in his praise of the Bustos-Cole measure said for hospitals and health systems "addressing social determinants of health is central to driving value and advancing overall well-being."