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Will Medicaid expansion bring a renaissance in care for the homeless?

Medicaid expansion

Beginning January 1, childless adults will qualify for Medicaid in most states. Many of these individuals are currently homeless and over 90 percent suffer from at least one chronic health problem, oftentimes mental health disorders and/or substance abuse. Because the entire Medicaid cost for this expansion population will be covered by the federal government, states have an incentive to do everything they can to enroll those eligible for coverage. This concerted effort to reach out to the population and bring them into managed care may reap significant benefits in dealing with homelessness in America including how and where care is provided, the integration of social services and job training.

While many Medicaid health plans are approaching this new population with trepidation, others are actively engaging a variety of social service, behavioral health, faith-based and veteran's organizations to map a new model of care. This model will encompass supportive housing, "street" clinics, daily medication runs and the use of formerly homeless individuals as healthcare navigators. Because of the heavy emphasis on screening and treating substance abuse and mental illness and because most recovery models incorporate relationship and career counseling, the societal impact of caring for these, new-to-Medicaid individuals could be huge. Medicaid health plans that offer health insurance exchange products could benefit as these formerly homeless individuals regain a foothold in our society and gain employment, housing and move out of Medicaid into the exchange market. Society as a whole could benefit from a reduction in crime and homelessness.

If your plan is expecting to serve this new population, it's not too late to augment your efforts in outreach, integrated care, creative network development and social services coordination to assure that you're prepared to hit the ground running on January 1.

Please let us know if we can help.

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