UnitedHealth Is Now Cutting Costs By Giving Apartments To Homeless People
Since 1986, laws have prevented emergency rooms from turning away patients that are unable to pay, regardless if they are uninsured, indigent, addicted to drugs, or mentally ill.
We have no such similar laws to protect the half a million homeless in the U.S. who have no place to sleep, and one doctor is now trying to change that, according to Bloomberg.
Jeffrey Brenner is a doctor who, for 25 years, has worked with the poor and the homeless. He recently became an executive at UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest insurer, and he is planning on using his position to give people places to live.
Brenner is using a pair of apartment complexes in Phoenix as research and development for his proposed initiative. He’s using UnitedHealth’s money to pay for housing and support services for about 60 formerly homeless recipients of Medicaid. UnitedHealth’s 6 million Medicaid members generated $43 billion in 2018, almost 20% of the insurer’s total revenue.
It’s a profitable business overall but the patients in the most need, who offer a “complex blend of medical, mental health, and social challenges” go on to cost UnitedHealth far more than what it take in to care for them.
“Can you imagine people living on the street with these disorders? Heart failure, COPD. They’re rolling around with oxygen tanks, crazy stuff. This is just sad. This is just stupid. Why do we let this go on?”
Instead, Brenner has been looking at data of patients for answers. One patient, named Steve, who is 54 with MS, cerebral palsy, heart disease and diabetes was homeless before UnitedHealth got him an apartment. While homeless for the year prior, he went to the ER 81 times and spent 17 days hospitalized and had medical costs of about $13,000 per month. Since a roof was put over his head, his average monthly medical costs have dropped more than 80% to about $2,000 per month.
Patients like Steve wind up in the ER because they don’t fit into the traditional ways that healthcare is delivered. The system is set up to “route billions of dollars to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and labs to diagnose and treat patients once they’re sick” and not care for vulnerable and homeless people.
The U.S. spends 18% of its …read more