NY wants to use housing to cut Medicaid costs

New York is moving forward with a dramatic change in the way its Medicaid program funds housing for thousands of its enrollees, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the WSJ, the state will move approximately 5,000 Medicaid enrollees currently housed in homeless shelters, group homes and nursing homes into apartments instead as part of a pilot project.

The state will build the 12 supportive housing units.The WSJ reported that the units will cost $50 to $70 a day per enrollee to operate, versus $210 a day for a nursing facility and even more than that for a hospital.

"We have to take more of a global, long-term view and think about this differently," Jason Helgerson, New York State's Medicaid director, told the WSJ. "There are a lot of low-hanging fruit of patients who do not need this restrictive care but have nowhere to go."

New York spends about $54 billion a year on Medicaid, far more than states with comparable populations, and it is growing at a rate of about 13 percent annually, the WSJ reported. It also leads the U.S. with unnecessary hospitalizations.

Moving high-risk low-income patients into supportive housing in order to cut healthcare costs has been a practice that has stretched back several years. In Sacramento, hospitals have collaborated to obtain housing for patients that regularly frequent their emergency rooms. Similar programs have been adopted in Oregon and Southern California.

The program means New York will sacrifice some matching federal funds from Medicaid, but New York officials believe they can make a case for restoration through the pilot program's success, the WSJ reported.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article