By KEVIN DERBY
Gus Bilirakis and Lisa Blunt Rochester
This week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., paired up on a proposal ensuring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers guidance to states when it comes to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Blunt Rochester introduced the “Collecting and Analyzing Resources Integral and Necessary for Guidance (CARING) for Social Determinants Act” on Tuesday and Bilirakis joined on as a cosponsor. They showcased the proposal on Wednesday with the congressman’s team offering insights on why he was backing it.
“There is growing recognition in the field of public health that reducing long-standing disparities in health outcomes is dependent on systemically addressing the social, economic and environmental factors that influence overall health and wellness. Examples of social determinants of health include: socioeconomic status, education, physical environment, employment, social support networks and access to healthcare,” Bilirakis’ office noted. “The Blunt Rochester-Bilirakis legislation will provide guidance to State Medicaid programs regarding how to implement research-proven strategies to optimize social determinants of health under existing Medicaid authority or waivers, especially for pediatric populations. This legislation builds upon the success that some state Medicaid programs have already had since testing innovative delivery and payment models designed to improve health outcomes while reducing costs.”
“Research shows that the conditions where people live, learn, work, and play, also known as the social determinants of health, play an outsized role in health outcomes and cost. We also know that this is particularly true for children. The impact of social determinants can be felt by our young people through lifelong consequences for health status,” said Blunt Rochester.
“Addressing social determinants of health that affect children can reduce unnecessary use of resources, lead to better outcomes for chronic diseases, such as asthma, and set young Americans up for healthier lives as adults. Some state Medicaid programs are implementing strategies to do this under existing Medicaid authority, but there is not clear guidance on what states can do. There is an opportunity for more states to address social determinants in Medicaid and CHIP by leveraging existing and waiver authorities,” she added.
“This is commonsense, bipartisan legislation that employs the basic principles of hierarchical needs. We have to look at the big picture. It is impossible to improve the population health of communities without addressing the factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. This is especially true when examining programs for children. For example, efforts to combat childhood obesity in at-risk populations, which lead to excessive healthcare expenditures, are most successful when combined with strategies designed to make sure low-income families have access to affordable, healthy food options. Prevention, education and improving access are essential components of effective public health programs. This isn’t just a pragmatic approach, it is the right thing to do as we work to ensure all children have the best possible start in life,” said Bilirakis.
The bill would have HHS provide strategies to states on social determinants of health through Medicaid and CHIP. Under the legislation, HHS would offer guidance to the states on how to have managed care organizations address social determinants of health.
Blunt Rochester’s proposal was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.