Congratulations to VAAACARES for receiving The John A. Hartford Foundation Business Innovation Award! The Business Innovation Award was established in 2016 to recognize Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) that pioneer bold strategies to partner with the health care system and deliver integrated care to older adults and people with disabilities in the community.
The Virginia Area Agencies on Aging – Caring for the Commonwealth (VAAACares), led by Bay Aging CEO Kathy Vesley-Massey, was recognized for developing a unique statewide service delivery system to enable easier contracting with duals plans and managed care organizations. Building on its success with the CMS Community-Based Care Transitions Program, VAAACares grew its program to create a one stop shop for referrals, billing, reporting, data analytics, training, and quality assurance. VAAACares provides evidence-based complex care coordination, care transitions, and other home and community based services that support positive health and improved outcomes for Virginians with chronic health conditions.
The statewide model was developed in response to decreased funding for Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). Tight federal and state budgets have made it extremely difficult for the AAA network in Virginia to maintain existing services or to contemplate expanding services to meet the current and future needs of its clients, even as its target population—older adults, people with disabilities, and their caregivers—continues to grow rapidly. In this context of shrinking government grants and growing need, Virginia’s AAAs realized a new business approach was needed to ensure their fiscal vitality and ability to provide health support and other needed services.
Upon the state’s announcement of its plan to transition to a managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS) program, major payers/insurers made it clear that they would not contract with the state’s 25 AAAs, individually. Through VAAACares, the AAA Network in Virginia is poised for business expansion through additional contracts with insurers and health care providers, leveraging the important role AAAs play in reducing health care costs and improving quality of life through client empowerment and services provided in the home.
Vesley-Massey accepted the award at the 42nd Annual n4a conference in Savannah, Georgia. She stated, “I accept this award…on behalf of all the AAAs in Virginia. We have worked very hard to build a statewide system to work with health care partners. And we have done this…with the mind of a business, but maintaining our hearts of compassion for the people we care about.”
The runner-up to VAAACares is the Living Well Center of Excellence located at Maintaining Active Citizens (MAC, Inc.), an Area Agency on Agency serving the southern-most counties of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The Living Well Center of Excellence has developed innovative partnerships with hospitals and other CBOs to spread evidence-based chronic disease self-management programs throughout the state of Maryland. n4a also recognized the Aroostook Agency on Aging for its work to partner with health care organizations to close several gaps in service to older adults living in Aroostook, Maine, a designated frontier area and the largest county east of the Mississippi River.
As the role of social determinants of health becomes ever more apparent, it is vital that the health care system partner with CBOs to improve both cost and quality of care. The leadership of organizations such as VAAACARES, the Living Well Center of Excellence, and Aroostook Agency on Aging can model business acumen, providing guidance for other CBOs to partner with insurers and health systems.