Ohio News Connection
November 16, 2017
Affordable Housing and Medicaid Costs: Making the Connection
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- State leaders on Tuesday decided to delay a proposed Medicaid rate cut for hospitals, intended to fill a budget gap. But some researchers say there are cost drivers beyond the walls of medical buildings that could be also be examined.
Loren Anthes, fellow of Medicaid policy at the Center for Community Solutions, said safe, affordable housing is one of the non-clinical issues that impact the cost of health care. And he noted Ohio has significant rates of housing insecurity and is one of the nation's worst performers in terms of housing equity.
"Medicaid has played a key role in connecting the chronically homeless to those services and supports that address these issues," Anthens said. "And there's more Ohio could be doing to support policies within and outside of Medicaid to increase access to safe, affordable housing."
In an assessment of Ohio's Medicaid expansion, nearly half of people said it was easier to remain current on their rent or mortgage since implementation. Anthes said state leaders need to look at increased investments in programs like subsidized housing and the Ohio Housing Trust Fund as ways to bring down Medicaid costs.
Some other states are using Medicaid to coordinate care between multiple settings and social service environments, Anthes said.
"California essentially said 'what we're going to try to do is make a specific effort to coordinate services for individuals who are homeless so that we can get them into stable housing and then wrap around the other medical supports they may need because its cost effective,'" he explained.
Mark McDermott, vice president at Enterprise Community Partners in Ohio, an affordable housing and community development organization, said many low-income working Ohioans are just a paycheck away from being thrown into a crisis. But, he said, affordable health care and housing can make a difference.
"It means that they're not going to be using emergency rooms without insurance, that they're not going to be putting off health visits and therefore developing chronic health diseases that in fact cost a lot more money and time to treat," McDermott said. "So the two really go hand in hand in terms of people really moving out of poverty."
Data released by Enterprise and the Center for Outcomes Research and Education found secure housing contributed to a 12 percent reduction in overall Medicaid costs.