ULG's Language Services Blog

Understanding (and Implementing) the Social Determinants Accelerator Act in 2021

As we round the corner into 2021, the spotlight continues to be on health and healthcare. We know that a healthy diet, physical exercise, and routine check-ups can keep us in tip-top shape, but what if you aren’t able to access these essential wellness tools? This year has shown us repeatedly that we must do better. This has led us to the realization that we must begin with social determinants of health.

What are social determinants of health?

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the non-medical factors of healthcare that account for up to 80 percent of health outcomes. Factors such as whether someone has transportation to pick up medication or regular access to healthy food can have a profound effect on a patient’s ability to follow treatment plans and avoid costly readmissions.


What is the SDAA?

The Social Determinants Accelerator Act (SDAA) will help states and communities devise strategies to better leverage existing programs and authorities to improve the health and well-being of those participating in Medicaid.

The SDAA provides for the following:

  • The Secretary of Health and Human Services would convene an inter-agency technical advisory council on social determinants of health. The council would include program experts from across the federal government, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Labor, and the United States Department of Agriculture, as well as state and local government officials, the private sector, and community-based organizations.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in consultation with the council, would make available up to $25 million in grants to state, local and Tribal governments to develop Social Determinants Accelerator Plans. Plans would
    • Target a group of high-need Medicaid patients, like homeless individuals, older workers with arthritis, nursing home patients, or mothers diagnosed with post-partum depression
    • Identify the key outcomes to be achieved through improved coordination of health and non-health services and use of evidence-based interventions
    • Include a plan for linking data across programs to measure the impact of the new approach on the health of participants and the return on investment for taxpayers.
  • The council would provide technical assistance to grantees to help them implement their plans by identifying federal authorities, opportunities, and strategies for braiding and blending funds and designing rigorous evaluations. To ensure all jurisdictions can benefit, the council will broadly disseminate best practices and opportunities for cross-program coordination.

How can my healthcare company be a part of the change?

  • Review your language access program for language gaps. If you’re not sure how to review your plan, take our audit for payers or providers.
  • Use Direct Connect. Direct Connect provides patients direct access to interpreters and then connects them to their healthcare providers. You can go further by adding bi-lingual care coordinators.
  • Use care liaisons over standard interpreting models. Our clients’ patients appreciate this model because they are able to connect with the same interpreter each time they call.
  • Consider getting an NCQA Distinction in Multicultural Health Care. NCQA evaluates how well an organization complies with standards for
    • Collecting race/ethnicity and language data
    • Providing language assistance
    • Cultural responsiveness
    • Quality improvement of CLAS
    • Reduction of health care disparities

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