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ACA awards go to UM, 15 health centers

University of Miami and six collaborators have won a $4.1-million, three-year Health Care Innovation Award to improve care to children with chronic illnesses, the Department of Health and Human Services announced.

In addition, 15 community health centersin the state are being given almost $9 million for expansion. Both programs are linked to The Affordable Care Act, which could be thrown out any day because of a Florida-led lawsuit.

UM and other winning projects aim to do three difficult things simultaneously: improve the quality of care, cut costs and train a new cadre of health-care workers. UM estimates its project will save the government $5.6 million.

Six other Florida organizations will get a share of innovation awards that total more than $80 million. The projects are among 81 winners nationwide.

The awards program is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Florida has challenged as unconstitutional. It isn’t clear what will happen to the awards if the Supreme Court throws out the law in a ruling expected in the next 10 days.

HHS said it hired an independent team of judges for the competition.

“Thanks to the health care law, we are giving people in local communities the resources they need to make our health care system stronger,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a release.

According to the Innovation Awards website, UM’s partners in the project are University of Florida College of Dentistry, the Miami-Dade Area Education Center, the Center for Haitian Studies, the Larkin Residency program, and Overtown Youth Center.

The UM project will focus on children who have asthma, obesity, type II diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases in four Miami-Dade communities. The workers-in-training will include community outreach workers, nursing assistants, dental hygienists and nurse practitioners.

Other award-winners who will spend some of the money in Florida are:

• YMCA, receiving $11.9 million to prevent the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes, in Florida and seven other states. Projected savings: $4.3 million.

• TransforMED, a Kansas company, is receiving $20.8 million to redesign primary care in Florida and ten other states. Projected savings: $52.8 million.

• The University of Alabama at Birmingham, $15 million to expand comprehensive cancer care planning to ten affiliate hospitals in Florida and four other states. Projected savings: $49.8 million.

• The University of North Texas Health Science Center, in partnership with Brookdale Senior Living, is receiving $7.3 million to expand Transitions of Care for nursing home residents to independent living, assisted-living and dementia communities in Texas and Florida. Projected savings: $9.7 million.

• Innovative Oncology Business Solutions Inc., $19.8 million to develop medical homes in Florida and six other states. Projected savings: $33.5 million.

• The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research will receive $9.4 million to develop a health workforce trained to use new technology for at-risk, high-cost patients with schizophrenia in Florida and eight other states. Projected savings: $10 million.

Combined with several announced last month, HHS has now made awards to 107 projects that intend to save the health care system an estimated $1.9 billion over the next three years.

More information on the Florida awards is at this website.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.