Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Innovation Center will announce as much as $1 billion in funding – a tenth of its total budget – to support the hiring and training of health care workers, as part of President Obama’s We Can’t Wait agenda announced October 29. This latest announcement is an effort by President Obama to spur job growth even as his $447 billion American Jobs Act (S 1660) stalls in Congress.

The Innovation Center will announce the availability of Innovation Challenge grants targeted to health care providers, community groups, local government, payers, and public-private partnerships. The focus will be on applicants that work with patients in federal health care programs and who will implement the most compelling new ideas to deliver improved health care services and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, particularly those with the highest health care needs.

Awards will range from approximately $1 million to $30 million over three years. The Challenge will support projects that can begin within six months. Each grantee project will be evaluated and monitored for measurable improvements in quality of care and savings generated.

All proposals are expected to define a clear pathway to sustainability, and should consider scalability and diffusion of the proposed model. The Innovation Challenge grants are intended to encourage applicants to include new models of workforce development and deployment that efficiently support their service delivery model proposal. Enhanced infrastructure to support more cost effective system-wide function is also a critical component of health care system transformation, and applicants are encouraged to include this as an element of their proposals.

Interested entities are required to submit a letter of intent by December 19 and an application by January 27, 2012 through CMS is expected to award grants by March 30, 2012.

The Innovation Center was created as part of the Affordable Care Act to develop new models to improve the coordination, quality and efficiency of health care services so it is likely that a portion of Innovation Challenge grants could be aimed at statutory goals of the Innovation Center, including patient-centered primary care; a transition away from fee-for-service reimbursement, toward comprehensive payment or salary-based payment; promotion of medical homes; integration of care for dual eligibles; support for home health care providers who provide chronic care management service; and assistance for medically underserved areas.