Leaders to Discuss How Health Care Reform Can Help Homeless

written by Lisa Stand
June 27, 2013

Health care reform offers real help to many people experiencing homelessness, especially in states that take full advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those we call chronically homeless – with disabilities and long histories of instability – have perhaps the most to gain. How these benefits support stable housing, though, depends on a lot on what happens at the community level.

That’s why the Alliance is holding a half-day pre-conference session exploring the connections between the ACA and homelessness in five communities: Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Portland. The session will be Monday, July 22, the first day of our 2013 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. We’re calling it, “Changing the Terms: How Communities are Leveraging Health Care for PSH Capacity.”

Sponsored by the Alliance, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and 100,000 Homes, the pre-conference will be offered at no additional charge. However, pre-registration is recommended. For more information, please contact healthcare@naeh.org.

At this session, we’ll take a look at how communities are responding to the ACA and addressing chronic homelessness through new partnerships and innovative funding approaches, while national leaders on ending chronic homelessness provide background and commentary.

In states that take full advantage of the ACA,  chronically homeless individuals  will be able to enroll in Medicaid and have access to medical, mental health, and supportive services. Where local leaders respond creatively, Medicaid funding can help end homelessness. If service providers are to make the most of the opportunities, they will need to pay extra attention to local collaboration.

And they will need to commit to doing a better job of integrating housing and supportive services, and accessing new health care dollars in the most effective ways possible. Local agencies will need to build bridges not only to large state agencies like Medicaid, but also to private health insurers serving as Medicaid managed care plans under state contracts.

The ultimate goal is working together to provide the permanent housing and supports that chronically homeless people need in order to thrive in our communities. Leaders in mainstream health care systems don’t necessarily know how this can be done. But their counterparts in homeless assistance can show them.

For instance, it’s up to us to inform state leaders about the potential of health homes, which have the capacity to arrange services that go hand in hand with supportive housing.

Another way to influence new Medicaid programs is by analyzing data in new ways that show that permanent supportive housing can help the bottom line in health care costs. Ultimately, when collaborations are shown to save money, there is better support for mainstream programs to invest in needed housing.

To learn more, check out our preconference session on Health Care reform. There certainly will be a lot to talk about.