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HHS Earmarks $1B for Healthcare Jobs, Innovation

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, November 15, 2011

The healthcare industry got a $1 billion shot in the arm Monday when the Department of Health and Human Services announced a competition to spark "innovative healthcare delivery models." Preference will be given "to projects that rapidly hire, train and deploy healthcare workers."

Most of the department heavyweights were on hand for the afternoon press conference: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Don Berwick, MD, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Richard Gilfillan, MD, acting director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation.

Sebelius said preference will be given to projects that provide for "rapid workforce deployment" and help "spark the economy" although HHS has not targeted the number of jobs it hopes to see created. She needled Congress for its failure to pass a comprehensive jobs bill, saying "This program will help us create the healthcare jobs we will need in the future to promote care coordination and improve health."

Healthcare remains a leading source of job creation in the overall economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new healthcare jobs represent 22% of the more than 1.2 million non-farm jobs created in 2011.

The billion-dollar Health Care Innovation Challenge is a response to the many successful local healthcare projects that are helping to improve care and reduce healthcare costs, Sebelius said. "Public and private community organizations, including hospital, physicians, churches, and other groups, are developing innovative solutions to help improve our healthcare system. This competition will help them build on their success."

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