The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) has announced the Health Care Innovation Challenge, which will award up $1 billion in cooperative agreements to applicants who will implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP, particularly those with the highest health care needs.  Applications are encouraged to focus on high cost/high-risk groups including those populations with multiple chronic diseases and/or mental health or substance abuse issues, poor health status due to socio-economic and environmental factors, multiple medical conditions, high cost individuals, or the frail elderly.

This is the highest amount of funding, and the most open-ended flexible initiative, to come from the CMMI, which was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, successful applicants will need to demonstrate the ability to achieve satisfactory improvement in cost of care both at the program-level (net savings over the duration of each award) AND  and at the projected medical cost trend (reduction that results from building the sustainable new model continuing after the cooperative agreement period is complete).

It also explicitly includes workforce training and education as a element of the initiative.  The Funding Opportunity Announcement states:

  • The health care workforce of the future will be highly focused on prevention, care coordination, care process re-engineering, dissemination of best practices, team-based care, community-based care, continuous quality improvement, and the use of data to support new care delivery models…there are many care coordination models that utilize less expensive but potentially highly effective individuals who are trained to interact with patients in a focused way to address preventive health and chronic conditions (e.g., community health workers). There is a shortage of such individuals today, even as we are moving toward a health care system based on effective care coordination and prevention. Additional examples could include but are not limited to: the use of personal and home care aides to help the elderly age at home; expanding the use of community-based paramedics to provide basic services to extend available primary care resources in rural communities; and the use of community-based nurse teams working with primary care practices to provide intensive care management for the most complex patients.

The objectives of the Healthcare Innovation Challenge are:

  • Engage a broad set of innovation partners to identify and test new care delivery and payment models that originate in the field and that produce better care, better health, and reduced cost through improvement for identified target populations.
  • Identify new models of workforce development and deployment and related training and education that support new models either directly or through new infrastructure activities.
  • Support innovators who can rapidly deploy care improvement models (within six months of award) through new ventures or expansion of existing efforts to new populations of patients, in conjunction (where possible) with other public and private sector partners.

Awards will range from approximately $1 million to $30 million for a three-year period.  Applications are open to providers, payers, local government, public-private partnerships and multi-payer collaboratives.  Each grantee project will be monitored for measurable improvements in quality of care and savings generated.

The Health Care Innovation Challenge will encourage applicants to include new models of workforce development and deployment that efficiently support their service delivery model proposal.  Enhanced infrastructure to support more cost effective system-wide function is also a critical component of health care system transformation, and applicants are encouraged to include this as an element of their proposals.

Potential applicants must submit a letter of intent (LOI) by December 19, 2011 in order to be eligible for a funding award.  Full applications are due January 27, 2012 with a first round of awards anticipated by March 30, 2012.  A second round of awards would be made in August 2012 and would include as much of the remaining funding (if any) as the second round of applications warrant.

Innovation Center staff will be hosting an informational webinar on the Health Care Innovation Challenge for all interested individuals and organizations on Thursday, November 17, 2011 from 2:00-3:30pm ET.

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