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Pennsylvania Selected for National Effort to Address Health-Related Social Needs and Advance Health Equity in Medicaid

03/25/2024

As part of this special series, the Commonwealth will participate in peer-to-peer learning with other state Medicaid agencies to share best practices to further provide quality healthcare to Pennsylvanians. 

Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today announced that Pennsylvania is one of nine states chosen to participate in the Center for Health Care Strategies’ (CHCS) Medicaid Health-Related Social Needs Implementation Learning Series. The series aligns with the goals of the Shapiro Administration and will help states in developing, implementing, or refining health-related social needs initiatives for Medicaid populations. Health-related social needs may include access to affordable, stable housing, consistent access to nutritious foods, access to social supports and safe communities, and more.

“As a physician, I could write prescriptions for my patients’ medical needs but not for the social and systemic issues happening outside the exam room that negatively affected their health. Being able to access a grocery store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables is something that many of us might take for granted, but it is critical for someone who is managing diabetes and does not have that resource in their neighborhood,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “Pennsylvania has an incredible opportunity to introduce strategic, innovative programs and services to improve the health of individuals, families, and whole communities. I am proud that Pennsylvania has been chosen to participate in this learning series, and I look forward to working with other states to refine our own plan to improve the health of all Pennsylvanians.”

DHS works every day to help Pennsylvanians live healthier lives, allowing them to live well, pursue their goals, and thrive. A focus on health-related social needs is embedded in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program. Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) are required to meet value-based purchasing requirements by making investments in these essential needs that greatly impact overall health and wellness.

As a participant in CHCS’ 12-month learning series, Pennsylvania will take part in peer-to-peer learning with other state Medicaid agencies to share best practices around practical, on-the-ground implementation efforts, promoting health equity, and centering community member voices. The other eight states participating in the program are: California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington State, and Wisconsin.

The learning series is made possible through support from Kaiser Permanente through its National Community Benefit Fund at The East Bay Community Foundation.

“It’s exciting to see the diversity in perspectives each state can bring to this important series, and the shared commitment to achieving better health outcomes and furthering health equity for Medicaid members,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, senior vice president and chief health officer at Kaiser Permanente.

Additionally, Pennsylvania’s proposal to address health-related social needs – Bridges to Success: Keystones of Health – is currently under review with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The proposal spans four areas of focus: housing, nutrition and food as medicine, reentry supports for those who are involved with the justice system, and multi-year continuous health coverage for children through age six. DHS hopes to use this program to make health care more accessible, improve quality of care and services, and test new strategies in health care to help people live healthier lives.

More information about the Medicaid Health-Related Social Needs Implementation Learning Series is available on CHCS’ website.

More information about Keystones of Health is available on DHS’ website.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brandon Cwalina - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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