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Build better health care and get cash award

U.S. is offering up to $30M for innovative groups

There’s $1 billion on the table for those who can come up with innovative ways to deliver health care.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a call for applications for the second round of Health Care Innovation Awards, which identify and strengthen new, successful care delivery models and payment structures that could be implemented on a larger scale.

Monetary awards of $1 million to $30 million will be distributed over three years to public and private organizations across the country that submit ideas for improved care and lower costs for enrollees in Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The first round of Health Care Innovation Awards wrapped up about this time last year. About 3,000 organizations applied, and 107 received funding, including six that operate in Maryland. Those awardees — Atlantic General Hospital Corp., CareFirst BlueCross/BlueShield, Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, George Washington University and San Francisco Community College — received a combined total of $57,902,486.

One of the larger awards, for about $19.9 million, went to JHU, which — in partnership with Johns Hopkins Health System and its affiliate medical providers — launched a comprehensive and integrated care program targeting residents of East Baltimore, especially high-risk adults with chronic illness, mental illness or substance abuse conditions. The effort, called the Johns Hopkins Community Health Partnership (J-CHiP), builds on existing programs within the medical system to deliver “the right care, at the right time, in the right place,” said Scott Berkowitz, medical director for accountable care at Johns Hopkins and program administrator for J-CHiP.

Hopkins’ application last year estimated J-CHiP would save CMS more than $50 million during the three-year window. Though that’s a rough estimate based on available data, Berkowitz said officials expect to see significant cost savings by reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, readmissions and emergency room visits and by being proactive about sending patients to the right place, as well as providing quality preventative care.

“We’re very excited about any opportunity to further our care delivery transformation efforts, and saw the first round of funding as a tremendous opportunity that would help us continue doing that in our environment and in partnership with the community,” Berkowitz said.

“We view this as a catalyst for our broader transformation efforts to develop true patient-centered care, no matter what the environment is — whether they’re in their home or whether they’re in the hospital. This [awards program] presented a galvanizing force within our community to think how we could come up with a way to do that.”

Although there are no definite plans yet, Berkowitz said he expects several Hopkins entities to submit proposals for other projects during this round of awards.

The CMS Innovation Center was created by the Affordable Care Act and administers the awards program.

Organizations can apply in one of four categories: models designed to rapidly reduce outpatient costs for Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP enrollees; models that improve care for populations with special needs (such as people living with HIV/AIDS or children in foster care); models that reorganize the financial and clinical approaches used by specific types of providers (such as specialty physicians); or models that create comprehensive wellness programs for specific populations (defined by geography, socioeconomic class or clinical diagnosis), such as diabetes prevention programs.

The program is open to any nonprofit, private-sector or government group, including hospitals and other care providers, insurance companies, for-profit businesses and faith-based organizations. Letters of intent to apply will be accepted from June 1 to June 28, and applications will be accepted from June 14 until Aug. 15.

“I’m excited to see the innovative ideas these applicants will bring to the table,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.