HHS readying new health care innovation office

Department of Health and Human Services officials are preparing for the opening of the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in January. The office is...

By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

Early next year, the Department of Health and Human Services will open the doors on a new office designed to spearhead the development and implementation of new ideas for health care reform.

According to the Affordable Care Act, HHS is supposed to open the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMI) to focus on improving payment and delivery methods to reduce program costs. Congress allocated $10 billion to pay for these pilot initiatives between 2011-2019.

Don Berwick, the CMS administrator, said the new center is driven by what experts in the health care field call the principles of “triple AIM.” This includes:

  • Safety – that means not harming people when they’re in our hands.
  • Effectiveness – which is essentially aligning care with the best known knowledge or science.
  • Patient centeredness – offering people in care, and their loved ones a chance to control what happens to them.
  • Timeliness
  • Efficiency
  • Equity or elimination of racial and economic barriers to health care delivery.

Berwick said it’s important that innovation in health care drive down the already high cost of keeping people healthy.

“It’s reduction of cost without harming a hair on anyone’s head,” he said during the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution event Monday on the CMI’s development. “It is about the reduction of cost through improvement, and that’s the modern view of the approach to that aim.”

With less than four months to go before it opens its doors, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation will be shaped by officials such as Farzhad Mostashari with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Policy at HHS. He said details of how the new office will work still are being hashed out.

“Be bold in the vision, but with an on ramp,” Mostashari said. “And there’s going to be this tension with speed…which means you go with people who are already doing this well. You go with measures that are already out there. It’s the need for speed versus the need for real innovation disruption, and I think there has to be both, and how you manage that tension.”

Put another way, Mostashari said that if the Health Care Reform Law is a trampoline, he thinks of the CMI as the fabric of that trampoline for jumpstarting many of the priorities of health care reform.

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