HHS Doles Out 2nd Round of Billion Dollar Innovation Awards, But Can’t Say What Savings Seen Yet From 1st Round

By Penny Starr | May 15, 2013 | 5:02pm EDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Penny Starr/CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Wednesday the second round of about $1 billion in “Health Care Innovation Awards,” as part of the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“We’re going to announce the latest steps we’re taking to spur innovation in our health care system by supporting some of the most promising ideas from around the country from lowering cost by improving the quality of care,” Sebelius said.

“Bringing down health care cost is our top priority,” Sebelius said.

But Richard Gilfillan, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who took questions from reporters on the conference call, could not tell reporters how much the $900 million awards given out last year has saved taxpayers in health care costs.

A reporter asked Gilfillan about the $1.9 billion savings over three years that HHS officials had predicted from the first round of awards and whether he could report any savings over the first year.

“All of our round-one proposals, our applicants, have put in operating plans,” Gilfillan said. “They’ve begun operations, but we do not have any estimates to share with you at this time.”

Another reporter asked a more pointed question:

“Has CMS’s actuaries found or confirmed savings by any innovation center project at this point, and are you guys preparing yet to expand any of them to become a permanent nationwide program as you’re authorized under the health law?” the reporter asked.

“We are still in relatively early stages of the roll out of some of the models that we have,” Gilfillan said. “We’re working closely with our colleagues in our evaluations group and our colleagues in the actuarial group to monitor performance.

“We do not have any results that we would use to pursue the path you describe,” Gilfillan said.

“Do you know when you might?” the reporter asked.

“I’m not commenting on that today,” Gilfillan said.

“Under this announcement, CMS will spend up to $1 billion for awards and evaluation of projects from across the country that test new payment and service delivery models that will deliver better care and lower costs for Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees,” a press release on the announcement stated.

The announcement of the awards, which are funded by the health care law, mentions cost savings: “Each model is expected to generate savings for the total cost of care for Medicare, Medicaid and/or CHIP beneficiaries.”

Last year’s awards averaged $8.4 million each and were given to projects in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

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