For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Supportive Housing portfolio within the New York State Department of Health (DOH). In that capacity, I’ve worked with over 40 stakeholders throughout the State to determine how best to reinvest Medicaid dollars in supportive housing. This year, we plan to invest $100 million in state-only Medicaid funds to support the construction of new supportive housing units for high-cost Medicaid members, as well as provide funding to support rental and service subsidies for various “high need” populations.
I recently co-authored a perspective, Housing as Health Care – New York’s Boundary –Crossing Experiment, with Dr. Kelly Doran and Dr. Nirav Shah which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The article outlines New York’s Medicaid investment in supportive housing and outlines the importance of supportive housing for New York’s high-cost Medicaid members.
We know that people who are homeless or lack stable housing face multiple health risks, die younger, have less access to primary care, and are frequent users of expensive hospital services. There is a growing recognition that addressing the social determinants of health is critical for improving health while reducing health care costs. Over a decade of independent research has shown that transitioning individuals into supportive housing dramatically reduces immediate and long-term spending for Medicaid reimbursable expenses, as well as spending on other public programs.
We envision a Medicaid system in which spending on social determinants of health such as housing is recognized as a best practice. As such, we plan to document New York’s success story and encourage other State’s to follow suit.
Elizabeth J. Misa is the Deputy Medicaid Director within the Office of Health Insurance Programs (OHIP) at the New York State Department of Health.