The Intersection of Health and Housing: Opportunities and Challenges

August 7, 2015

This briefing, the first in a three-part series exploring the intersection of health and social policy, focused on Medicaid and housing policy. What does evidence say about the relationship between stable housing and health outcomes for various populations? What financial impact can housing have on Medicaid costs, and what potential role can Medicaid play regarding housing policy? What funding sources are state and local officials currently leveraging to provide housing resources? Are there barriers to innovative health and housing approaches?

A distinguished panel of experts addressed these and related questions:

If you were unable to attend the briefing, here are some key takeaways: 
Barbara DiPietro, director of policy, National Health Care for the Homeless Council Homelessness causes poor health and complicates treatment, Barbara DiPietro stated. A life on the street exposes you to harsh weather and stresses that raise blood pressure and increases the incidence of depression, alcoholism, and mental health issues. Supportive housing, which does not have time limits or requirements for sobriety and is team-based, is integral to achieving stability and better health outcomes, she added.

Jennifer Ho, senior advisor for housing and services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
The Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies projects that the number of older households eligible for rental assistance will increase by 2.6 million people between 2011 and 2030, indicating that HUD would need 900,000 more subsidized housing units by 2030, just to keep up with one in three people who need it, Jennifer Ho stated. HUD has been working with HHS on a Section 811 program which leverages multiple sources of funding to create integrated housing, where Medicaid provides home and community based services, she continued.

Gretchen Hammer, director, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing
The number of Coloradans enrolled in Medicaid has increased from about 750,000 prior to the first open enrollment period to 1.2 Million as of August 2015, Gretchen Hammer said. Out of those enrollees, 37,000 reported homelessness in 2015 and accounted for $160 million in spending.

Sister Adele O’Sullivan, founder and physician, Circle the City, Arizona
The Frequent users of systems engagement (FUSE) pilot project resulted in a 73 percent reduction in emergency room visits, and a 74 percent reduction in inpatient utilization, Sister Adele O’Sullivan stated. This program engaged the most frequent homeless utilizers of care and offered medical respite center services, in order to stabilize, assess, and then quickly move individuals to supportive housing.

Ed Howard of the Alliance for Health Reform moderated the discussion.

Follow the Briefing on Twitter: #HealthandHousing

Contact: Beeta Rasouli (202)789-2300

The event was sponsored by the nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform, with support from the Centene Corporation.


Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Speaker Presentations

Barbara DiPietro Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Gretchen Hammer Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Sister Adele O’Sullivan Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Event Details

Agenda (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Speaker Biographies (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Event Resources