6 HHS healthcare accomplishments in 2011

Recently, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took a look back and recounted some of the department’s biggest accomplishments in 2011. From discounting brand name prescriptions for seniors to helping prevent the nearly 2 million heart attacks and strokes every year, the HHS’ efforts resulted not only in a healthier America but significant cost savings across the industry.

Here are six healthcare accomplishments made by HHS in 2011. 

[See also: HHS announces $200M in state grants to fight health insurance premium hikes]

1. The Affordable Care Act. According to Sebelius, the organization has begun to “usher in a new era for patients,” which allows them, not insurers, to manage their healthcare. Healthcare reform allowed Medicare beneficiaries to have free protective measures, such as physicals, flu shots, mammograms and more. Insurers were also made responsible for justifying rate increases more than 10 percent to independent experts or regulators, before premiums are raised. “Almost 3 million seniors in the so called ‘donut hole’ received a 50 percent discount on brand name prescriptions, saving almost 2 billion dollars,” said Sebelius. “That’s really serious money back in people’s pockets.” Lastly, young adults 26 and under are now allowed to stay on their parents’ health plan, while small businesses took advantage of a 35 percent tax credit for health insurance premiums.

2. The Partnership for Patients. The initiative is described as a “bottom up” approach that brings together patients, hospitals, insurance companies and other stakeholders to reduce healthcare-acquired infections and mistakes. The ultimate goal? To save 60,000 lives within the next three years. “This is a great example of the kind of effort that actually does reduce cost and improve care at the same time,” said Sebelius. The two goals outlined by the initiative include decreasing preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent in 2013, compared to 2010. And by the end of 2013, hospital readmissions would be reduced 20 percent, compared to 2012. According to the initiative’s website, these goals have the potential to save up to $35 billion across the system, including up to $10 bullion in Medicare savings, over the next three years. 

3. The Million Hearts campaign. The Million Hearts campaign was launched in September 2011 to bring attention to the nearly 2 million heart attacks and strokes resulting in 800,000 deaths every year. “By improving prevention and improving care, we have a goal to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years,” said Sebelius. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are co-leaders of the campaign within HHS. The initiative aims to improve heart disease and stroke prevention by improving access to effective care, improving the quality of care and focusing more clinical attention on heart attack and stroke prevention.