Coalition supports bill to improve SDOH collection

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A coalition of healthcare organizations is backing legislation to promote the capturing of social determinants of health data for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

Aligning for Health, which includes Anthem, the American Hospital Association, the BlueCross BlueShield Association, Humana and UPMC, supports the Utilizing National Data, Effectively Reforming Standards and Tools, to Address Negative Determinates of Health (UNDERSTAND) Act.

Introduced last month by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the bill is meant to provide Congress with needed information to better inform future legislation.

“We agree that encouraging providers to screen for and identify non-health factors that may contribute to wellbeing will help to enable more holistic and well-informed care,” states the coalition’s letter to Casey and Portman. “Additionally, the collection of such data at the federal level will help to illuminate healthcare disparities in the Medicare and Medicaid population, providing actionable data to policymakers to better target resources and support.”

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“There is a significant body of evidence indicating that economic and social conditions such as safe and affordable housing, sufficient nutrition, access to transportation and others, have a powerful impact on individual and population health outcomes, as well as medical costs,” according to Aligning for Health.

If the UNDERSTAND Act becomes law, it will require healthcare providers to submit ICD-10 Z-codes or “stress codes” to the Department of Health and Human Services when treating a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary. The legislation also would require HHS to evaluate the reported information and to provide aggregate findings and trends from the data.

“The UNDERSTAND Act is the first step to learning more about social determinants of health so that we can find solutions to improve health care access and life outcomes for underserved communities,” said Casey in a written statement.

“We must address the disparities that hold some individuals back, and the UNDERSTAND Act will provide a targeted approach to identifying ways that we can improve health outcomes for vulnerable communities,” adds Portman. “The UNDERSTAND Act establishes a federal plan to gather information and inform future policy making. This is an important step to changing the way we talk about poverty and health.”

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