Many states are transforming their health care delivery systems to improve health and control costs. Reducing health disparities — and addressing their social and economic causes — is at the heart of many of these efforts.
In the midst of the pandemic, many states are continuing to advance their health system transformation efforts. Rhode Island’s Medicaid Accountable Entities (AE) Program, for example, is shifting to a pay-for-performance model for several screening measures. Under this model, there is an additional financial incentive to screen children and their families for health and social needs, which have taken on new importance due to the added stressors of COVID-19.
The state developed SDOH screening requirements for the AEs. Screening tools must be approved by the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), and they must include information on the following domains: housing insecurity, food insecurity, transportation, interpersonal violence, and utility assistance.
Screening for a child’s needs can offer insights about what kinds of services, referrals, or wrap-around care are needed to ensure healthy development. Because the ongoing pandemic has required children and families to stay home and spend additional time together, a safe and supportive home environment is especially crucial for children’s health and well-being. The SDOH screening domains that are required by EOHHS overlap with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as poverty, food and/or housing insecurity, neglect, and mental illness — all of which contribute to poor health outcomes for children.
Rhode Island’s AE program takes into account the benefit of a two-generation (2Gen) approach to these issues. Under a 2Gen framework, services are provided to both children and the adults in their lives simultaneously to help families live healthy and productive lives. When screening children under age 12, Rhode Island’s SDOH screening measure can be applied to an entire household instead of to only the individual child. This can provide a better understanding of how to target interventions for the whole family going forward.
This year, a key change is happening within the AE program that may increase the number of children and families served by the program. The state is shifting to pay-for-performance (P4P) for the SDOH screening requirement. Beginning in Project Year 4 (PY4), there is a financial incentive for the AEs to increase their SDOH screening rates among their attributed populations. AEs needed time to develop their screening tools and build capacity around screening for SDOH before shifting the AE incentive metric to P4P. Other measures, including documented developmental screening for children younger than age 3, will also transition to P4P in PY4.
Though the SDOH screening requirements are specific to Medicaid AEs in Rhode Island, state officials expect the screening requirements to have a ripple effect. In primary care settings, for example, if a provider is administering the SDOH to AE-attributed patients, officials expect they are likely integrating the screening into their workflows and administering it to all of their patients. This has proven to be the case with other well-child practices. For example, the AE Coastal Medical, has implemented universal screenings across all of its practices to assess and identify needs around depression, anxiety, and SDOH.
Screening is only the first step in improving health-related social needs for children and families. One of the goals of the AE program is to use screening results and the improved understanding of its members’ circumstances to improve their overall health. Rhode Island is leveraging its Quality Report System (QRS), a tool for data collection, to calculate performance on the quality measure. This tool enables providers to drill down to the patient level to identify patients still in need of screening.
An upcoming strategy to help AEs coordinate better with community partners is the procurement of a community referral system that would help connect individuals to necessary resources. Such a referral network could be linked with the QRS in the future, making data collection, analysis, and referral a centralized process. Ultimately, this initiative may drive a broader conversation about how the state collects screening data across both public and private payers, and how this data can be used to improve the health outcomes of Rhode Island residents.
Inequities in dental care are prevalent across the United States, with significant disparities based on age, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Economic factors, such as ability to pay for dental insurance, and social factors such as food insecurity and access to nutritious food options also play a large role in oral health outcomes.
In Michigan, state Medicaid medical and dental managed care contracts now include requirements to address social determinants of health (SDOH) among enrollees. Examples of these requirements include:
- Incorporating oral health into community health workers’ training curriculum;
- Collaborating with community-based organizations (CBOs);
- Collecting data on enrollees’ SDOH and using it to target outreach and educational activities; and
- Implementing quality assurance and improvement projects that promote equitable access to oral health care.
Michigan’s Medicaid medical and dental managed care contracts demonstrate a proactive approach to identifying and addressing SDOH among Medicaid enrollees. While budget shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic may make it more difficult for states to take on additional initiatives, addressing SDOH in Medicaid contracts can decrease costs and improve oral health outcomes. States that want to encourage dental plans to take on a larger role in promoting equitable access to care and addressing SDOH could adopt initiatives similar to Michigan’s.
These types of Medicaid contractual requirements are important first steps in improving SDOH among enrollees, while strengthening monitoring and enforcement requirements are also critical tools when adequate funding and personnel are available.
Why Focus on Oral Health and SDOH?
SDOH are the conditions in the places where individuals live, learn, and work that may affect their health risks and outcomes. They include factors such as food access, housing stability, educational attainment, poverty, health literacy, and transportation, among others. Social determinants dictate an individual’s access to health care and quality of care, which directly affect physical and oral health and exacerbate health disparities. For example:
- Low-income children are twice as likely to have dental caries (tooth decay) than children from higher-income homes; and
- Individuals who are poor or have less than a high school education have edentulism (toothlessness) at a rate three-times higher than those with higher incomes or more education.
Increasingly, Medicaid medical and dental managed care organizations are implementing initiatives designed to address SDOH among their members in order to improve oral health and promote health equity.
While all states cover dental care for Medicaid-enrolled children under age 21 as part of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit, adult dental coverage is optional for state Medicaid programs. Currently, 35 states provide limited dental benefits for adults and 19 states offer extensive adult dental benefits. However, optional adult benefits, such as dental care, may be affected by state efforts to meet continued budget challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Dental disease, though, not only adversely affects oral health but is also associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and low birth weight and preterm births. Preventive dental care has the potential to improve overall health and well-being and reduce costs.
How Michigan Addresses Oral Health and SDOH
In NASHP’s recent 50-state scan of Medicaid managed care medical and dental contracts, Michigan was one of only three states (out of 19 reviewed) to consistently and directly reference SDOH in their Medicaid dental plan contracts.* Additionally, Michigan’s Medicaid medical managed care organization (MCO) contract includes detailed requirements for addressing SDOH, many of which align with the dental plan’s language and promotes coordination between physical and oral health care. While written contractual requirements do not guarantee that medical and dental plans are actively engaged in implementing SDOH-related initiatives – especially in the absence of funding to monitor these programs – Michigan’s contracts offer valuable examples of potential ways to address SDOH that other states could adopt as a first step.
Michigan Delivery System Overview
Michigan Medicaid uses a managed care system to deliver medical and dental care, and the Medicaid dental benefit is carved out and administered by various dental plans contracted by the state. Michigan Medicaid covers limited dental services for adults, including dental check-ups, teeth cleaning, X-rays, fillings, tooth extractions, and dentures. Additionally, the state offers an enhanced dental benefit for Medicaid-eligible pregnant women that includes emergency dental treatment and some oral surgeries. Michigan also administers the Healthy Kids Dental program, which covers comprehensive oral health care for children under age 21 enrolled in Medicaid.
Dental Contract Language
Michigan stands out because of the state’s frequent and direct mentions of SDOH throughout its Healthy Kids Dental (HKD) model contract. The HKD contract reflects a broad range of required initiatives related to SDOH, including:
- Collaboration with community organizations;
- Data use to target interventions and assess population-wide social needs, and
- Implementation of quality assurance and improvement projects that reduce barriers to oral health care.
Collaboration with Community Organizations
One way dental plans can help address SDOH-related needs is by working with community-based organizations (CBOs). CBOs play an important role in connecting individuals to social services and helping people access health-related social needs, such as healthy food, transportation services, and educational materials that promote health literacy.
Michigan requires dental plans administering the HKD program to “collaborate with community-based organizations to facilitate the provision of enrollee oral health education services to ensure the entire spectrum of social determinants of oral health are addressed, e.g., housing, healthy diet and physical activity.” Michigan also encourages contractors to “build relationships with community partners that will engage in integrated care and promote good oral health practices.”
Through dynamic and active partnerships with CBOs, dental plans can more easily refer individuals to social and community services to help address members’ needs. Additionally, these partnerships with CBOs allow the state to expand its reach to more Medicaid-eligible children through educational initiatives.
Dental plans can also encourage members to work with CBOs and other public health programs by implementing their own educational programs. Michigan lists community-based public health resources on its website, and requires dental plan contractors to institute educational, public relations, and social media programs to increase awareness of available resources, such as CBOs, that can help reduce the impact of social determinants of oral health.
Data Collection, Tracking, and Reporting
While coordinating with social and community resources is an important step in improving health equity, having strong mechanisms in place to collect and track community data is critical to ensure social determinants are addressed. Michigan stands out in its commitment to require that medical and dental plans collect SDOH-related data.
Michigan requires HKD contractors to collect data on SDOH and utilize enrollment files, claims, encounter data, and utilization management data to improve community collaboration and address oral health disparities. The state specifies that the dental plan must “use social determinants of oral health data provided by [the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services] to analyze member-level data to direct the contractor’s efforts of targeted interventions, outreach, enrollee education and health promotion.” Additionally, the dental plan must report on the effectiveness of its population health management programs, including measures identifying the number of enrollees experiencing a “disparate level of social needs,” such as limited transportation access and housing instability.
Michigan’s data utilization requirements range from addressing individuals’ health-related needs to analyzing population-wide equity issues. Plans are required to gather and utilize this information for finetuning their services, such as care management and referrals. However, given that requirements for health plans to collect SDOH-related data are fairly new, and the state has little funding available for this work, the state’s role in monitoring whether data collection is occurring is currently limited. With adequate funding and personnel, states can take a more active role in tracking and data analysis to better understand the social needs of the population and effectively target SDOH-related interventions.
Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement
Michigan is committed to not only reporting on the effectiveness of SDOH-related initiatives, but also working to improve existing systems to better address inequities in oral health. The HKD contract requires the dental plan to have a Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) plan that includes a description of how the contractor will, “develop system interventions to address the underlying factors of disparate utilization, health-related behaviors, and oral health outcomes, including, but not limited to, how they relate to utilization of dental emergency services,” and “ensure the equitable distribution of dental services to contractor’s entire population, including members of racial/ethnic minorities, those whose primary language is not English, those in rural areas, and those with disabilities.”
SDOH can contribute to variances in utilization of dental services and poor oral health outcomes, with factors such as geographic location and language proficiency playing an important role in driving health care access. In addition to using data to better understand the impact of social factors on members’ oral health and population utilization trends, Michigan requires contractors to continue to find new ways to reach all populations and reduce the effects of SDOH on oral health outcomes.
Medical Contract Language
Much of the language related to SDOH included in the Healthy Kids Dental contract is consistent with the language in Michigan’s Medicaid medical MCO contract, which covers adults and children. Both the HKD and MCO contracts require the plan to collaborate with CBOs to provide physical and oral health education and address SDOH, implement community education campaigns to improve public knowledge of community-based resources, report on the effectiveness of SDOH-related population health management initiatives, and promote equitable access to care using Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) projects.
However, the medical contract also offers additional opportunities for investment in SDOH that states could consider implementing in dental contracts. For example, Michigan requires medical MCO contractors to participate in the Medicaid Health Equity Project, which is a statewide effort to address racial and ethnic disparities. Through this project, Medicaid health plans collect and report on data across multiple quality measures, including access to preventive and ambulatory health services. The state then uses data stratification by race and ethnicity to determine how racial and ethnic discrimination affect each quality measure, with the goal of addressing any disparities.
Additionally, the medical contract requires health plans to enter into agreements with CBOs to coordinate “population health improvement strategies,” which address social determinants such as physical environment and socioeconomic status. These agreements with CBOs must include information on data sharing, each partner’s role in care coordination, reporting requirements, and plans for coordinating service delivery with primary care providers.
What are Key Considerations and Next Steps?
Addressing SDOH is critical to improving oral health, overall health, and health equity. Increasingly, Medicaid dental plans across the country are collecting data on community needs and implementing initiatives to reduce barriers to oral health care. In a recent 50-state scan of Medicaid managed care contracts, NASHP found that out of 19 dental contracts and 38 medical contracts reviewed nationally, 13 and 37, respectively, require the plan to coordinate with community services. Efforts to address SDOH are also underway, though they tend to be further along on the medical side than the dental side. This provides an opportunity for states to apply medical contracts’ language in their dental contracts, or work with health plans to link existing SDOH-related programs with the dental system.
In response to budget shortfalls resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan’s Medicaid program now faces potential rate changes, particularly for dental payments. However, program staff report they see opportunities to establish shared performance metrics between Medicaid MCOs and dental plans in the future. The state is considering ways to standardize and refine SDOH-related data collection and analysis, especially related to dental care. Michigan health officials noted the necessity of first ensuring data was valid and reliable before using it to drive decisions or implement capitation withhold incentive programs. The state is also discussing leveraging Michigan’s health information exchange to transmit standardized SDOH screening information to plans and providers.
Through the Healthy Kids Dental and Medical MCO contract, Michigan has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing social determinants of oral health. The contracts present an opportunity for states to adopt similar language in order to encourage dental plans to coordinate with CBOs, effectively collect and use SDOH-related data, and implement performance improvement projects aimed at reducing disparities.
* NASHP scanned Michigan’s Healthy Kids Dental model contract and the Michigan Medicaid Medical MCO sample contract.
Acknowledgements: This fact sheet was made possible by the DentaQuest Partnership LLC. The author would like to especially thank Trenae Simpson for her guidance and assistance, and state officials in Michigan for their helpful feedback. The information, content, and conclusions are those of the author’s and should not be construed as the official position or policy of the DentaQuest Partnership LLC.
Safe and stable housing is necessary for people to become and stay healthy. States and the federal government have both invested in programs that help low-income and vulnerable populations find housing and access health care and supportive services. However, those programs often remain siloed with health and housing sectors often working independently toward similar goals.
Across the country, states are launching new payment models that reward quality, promote care integration, improve access, and address the social determinants of health (SDOH) in an effort to improve population health. One of these ground-breaking initiatives is Rhode Island’s Accountable Entity (AE) Program, created to improve the health of Rhode Islanders enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans.
Rhode Island’s program is designed to encourage Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) and providers to deliver more cost-effective care through value-based payments, improve coordinated care delivery, and focus on population health in ways that go beyond traditional clinical care. Rhode Island Health System Transformation Project Director Lauretta Converse and AE Program Director Deborah Correia Morales, members of National Academy for State Health Policy’s (NASHP) State Accountable Health Models workgroup, recently shared how their program is addressing SDOH during the first year of AE implementation.
Could you describe Rhode Island’s accountable entity program and how it fits into your managed care model?
State officials developed the AE program through an amendment to the state’s 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver as a way to move the existing Medicaid MCO model away from fee-for-service and towards value-based care to expand its ability to improve health outcomes and decrease costs. The AEs are provider organizations that once certified by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS ) are eligible to contract with one of the state’s MCOs. Specific contractual requirements set forth by the EOHHS provide guidelines for how MCOs and AEs should proceed in coordinating teams of providers with the goal of aligning financial incentives, improve their capacity to manage complex conditions, and better address social needs. The AEs, through increased delivery system integration and improved information exchange, will enhance the capacity of the MCOs and providers to support and serve high-risk populations. AE participation is voluntary, but once MCOs enter into an AE contract, they are eligible to receive incentive funding from a pool of total incentive dollars. During project Year 1, 15 percent of those dollars is allocated to the MCO incentive pool while 85 percent is allocated to the AE incentive pool.
How are you incorporating SDOH into the AE model?
AEs are accountable for care coordination for their attributed populations and are required to adopt a defined population health approach. Rather than having individual providers treat patients’ individual health issues one at a time, AEs coordinate a team of providers who take on increasing financial risk for treating the whole person. A central element of the AE model is the required integration of strategies to address SDOH. The strategies must include assessment of social needs, screening and referral to community resources, and using community partnerships and engagement to address identified needs. Rhode Island has taken this on through a three-legged stool approach: certification, payment, and incentives.
How certification works:
In the first year of the program, the EOHHS certified six AEs. The state’s EOHHS uses a set of certification standards that require:
- The identification of three key domains of social need
- Evidence of capacity to address those domains;
- A process for screening, managing referrals; and
- Arranging supports for patients who need them.
AEs work with their providers to identify the best points of contact with their patients, and are able to bring aspects of care management to a broader population. AEs must be able to demonstrate clear evidence of their capacity to address the three priority domains, which could be through defined relationships with community-based organizations, in-house social supports, or an agreement with a separate social supports agency.
Possible key domains include housing stabilization and support, education and literacy, food security, safety and domestic violence, employment, and transportation. As expected, the AEs all received conditional certification because they did not yet meet the necessary standards for providing services and supports from within the community or for screening and referring patients based on the SDOH [ ]. Rhode Island state officials recognize that the AEs need support, in this case in the form of incentive payments, to develop their capacity in this area and to reach the goal of emphasizing community-based resources and services in addition to institutional care.
How payment works:
Certified AEs participate in an EOHHS-designed, value-based, Alternative Payment Methodology (APM) and total cost of care (TCoC) model through contractual partnerships with MCOs. EOHHS contracts with MCOs, which then subcontract with the AEs, which makes the MCOs responsible for ensuring AE contractual compliance. These contracts are intended, over time, to move AEs away from shared savings to increased financial risk and responsibility and to move provider payments from volume-based to value-based arrangements. Payments to AEs, made by the contracted MCO, are based in part on the quality of the care they deliver to their members, as determined by the EOHHS Quality Scorecard, which includes an SDOH measure.
How incentives work:
AE infrastructure development and implementation are supported through the Health System Transformation Project (HSTP), an amendment to the state’s 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver. Entering into APM contracts makes AEs eligible to receive incentive payments from their managed care partners, and AEs receive the funds in exchange for meeting milestones established by AEs and MCOs in an individualized HSTP plan. The milestones initially are based on infrastructure and capacity building and will transition to performance-based outcome metrics. well the AEs perform in accordance with the plan dictates the amount of incentive funding earned.
AEs are required to allocate 10 percent of their received incentive funds to establish partnerships between the AE and community-based organizations that support behavioral health care, substance abuse treatment, or SDOH. A key tenet of addressing SDOH is engaging with community supports so that relationships for referral, follow-up, and tracking are established. As such, it is a requirement of the program that the agreements between community partners and AEs be formalized along with the process of identifying partners’ specific service and referral needs.
How do AEs engage with community partners to help reach their goals and address social determinants of health?
EOHHS identified four steps for AEs to use to develop meaningful community-based partnerships in Rhode Island.
First, it is necessary to identify the appropriate partners to assist in addressing SDOH within a particular community. The next step is to formalize the agreement between the AE and the community partner to establish expectations and hold each party accountable for their responsibilities. The third step is to establish bi-directional care management tracking so that all parties, including the MCO, are as up-to-date as possible on the care of patients within the AE. Finally, partners develop metrics for measuring the SDOH efforts and need for any adjustments to maximize the impact of the partnership.
All of these steps are supported through a requirement that the AEs allocate 10 percent of their incentive funding to community-based organizations.
Why are social determinants so integral to new payment and delivery models?
An increasingly familiar statistic — only 20 percent of health outcomes are due to clinical health care — establishes the importance of addressing societal, behavioral, and environmental factors when attempting to improve health. Addressing SDOH not only improves the overall health of a community, it increases the capacity of a system to prevent poor health outcomes and to manage and treat the health needs of the people it serves. A payment and delivery model that holds providers accountable for the full range of factors that influence health outcomes is a model that is likely to decreases costs and improves results.
What are your next steps?
Thus far, AEs have identified housing, food, and domestic violence as their top social determinants. EOHHS hopes to see AEs increasingly engaged in addressing these issues in their communities while taking on additional financial risk and better meeting certification standards in Year 2 of the program.
To encourage investments in population health, states are increasingly using levers available in their managed care and value-based contracts to address social determinants of health, such as housing and employment. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Academy for State Health Policy examined Medicaid contracts and contract guidance documents in 11 states to highlight how each state’s contract requirements sought to enhance population health. This new chart compares the social determinants each state targeted, and how states monitored outcomes and funded these efforts.
View or download: How States Address Social Determinants of Health in Their Medicaid Contracts and Contract Guidance Documents
For more information, contact Jill Rosenthal or Amy Clary.