While the need to address social determinants of health (SDOH) is definitely not new, 2023 marks the first year SDOH is codified into national and statewide value-based payment program mandates. These mandates are designed to hold Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) accountable. While the rollout of SDOH code sets across our healthcare ecosystem is one phase, alone it’s not enough. The next phases are even more critical: codes must be collected, used, reviewed, and acted upon within value-based payment programs to ensure patients realize the benefits of a more inclusive and accessible healthcare system.
The newest value-based payment program purposely designed to address SDOH is the ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (ACO REACH) model, launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). ACO REACH participants are required to develop a health equity plan to identify underserved patients within their population and implement initiatives to measurably reduce health disparities. While this is not the only requirement, it will challenge ACO REACH participants to collect complete and accurate SDOH data.