Welltower Chairman and CEO Tom DeRosa

Welltower on Friday announced an effort to further position senior living as a low-cost care setting of choice within the nation’s healthcare system.

The Toledo, OH-based real estate investment trust will collaborate with Anthem subsidiary CareMore Health to try to improve care and outcomes while reducing the total cost of care for residents of some of the senior living communities in the REIT’s portfolio. Specifically, Welltower said, CareMore’s clinical programs and onsite care models will be integrated at Belmont Village and SRG Senior Living independent and assisted living communities in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA.

Welltower Chairman and CEO Thomas J. DeRosa said the REIT’s association with CareMore is the first of its kind and will serve as a “true model of value-based healthcare.”

“We firmly believe that this innovative partnership will demonstrate the benefits of managing the complex healthcare needs of seniors in lower-cost settings with the goal of achieving improved outcomes,” he said in announcing the effort.

The arrangement will introduce residents in the communities to Medicare Advantage institutional special needs plans (I-SNPs), offered through CareMore’s partnering health plans, through which CareMore clinicians will deliver and manage care.

CareMore’s mobile interdisciplinary team — which includes nurses, doctors, behavioral health specialists, pharmacists, case managers and clinical coordinators — will work with participating assisted living wellness staff members with the goal of increasing access to care, shortening and reducing avoidable hospital stays, reducing polypharmacy, ensuring successful transitions across settings, and enabling residents to safely age in place, Welltower said.

The REIT expects the initiative to result in operational efficiencies and improved resident health and wellness.

Welltower also said it plans to expand its collaboration with CareMore to other regional and national markets in the future. In addition to California, CareMore’s integrated care delivery system currently provides care for enrollees in Medicare Advantage and Medicaid health plans in the nation’s capital and eight other states: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. CareMore also is participating in a dual demonstration project in parts of Los Angeles County in California, in conjunction with state and federal regulators, to coordinate care for people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Welltower’s portfolio includes 23 SRG senior living properties and 21 Belmont Village senior living properties as of June 30, although not all of those communities are located in California. Belmont Village’s president as of Sept. 3 is Mercedes Kerr, the REIT’s former executive vice president of business development.

Welltower has 37 senior living properties in the Los Angeles area and considers Southern California one of its “core markets,” according to information on the company’s website.

Assisted living in the healthcare system

DeRosa in the past has expressed his belief that assisted living will play an increasingly important role within the healthcare system.

For instance, on the REIT’s July 2018 earnings call, he said: “When we talk about the future of this business, you hear us repeatedly talk about how assisted living will become much more consequential in the overall healthcare delivery perspective, and we are very much driving that for our senior housing operators.”

He made the comment following the REIT’s complex deal involving Welltower, the ProMedica Health System and assisted living / memory care / skilled nursing provider HCR ManorCare.

In a February 2017 earnings call, he noted that hospitals increasingly are viewing senior living communities as part of a solution to lowering the risk associated with older adults, especially those who are frail or have dementia.

“Senior housing was completely invisible to hospital systems. Why? Because it’s outside the reimbursement framework,” he said at the time. “But increasingly, these systems need to see senior housing as part of effective healthcare delivery networks, because the people who live with us are the largest-risk population for those health systems. They are seeing how our sector can help them manage that risk.”

Those remarks came as Welltower announced a new partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine, a Baltimore area academic medical center that includes hospitals, a medical school, suburban healthcare and surgery centers, and primary and specialty care outpatient sites. Initially, Welltower and Johns Hopkins said at the time, the collaboration would focus on initiatives involving quality outcomes in assisted living and memory care, educational programs for patients and caregivers, and the sharing of health and wellness and business expertise, best practices, research and information. 

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