Here's how prescription housing can save healthcare spending.
An FKD Feature exclusive

Roman Leclerc sat on his bed in shock as the paramedics came to take the body away from the 53rd Street Men’s shelter. His roommate, a young man with a drug addiction, overdosed on cocaine. After watching his roommate pass out with pale, blue-tinged skin and irregular breathing, he called emergency services for help. However, he was dead before the ambulance arrived.

“That’s not a pretty sight to see,” said Leclerc. “Someone died in front of me, and no one cared.”

Leclerc has been homeless for a decade, since he was 21 years old. Throughout the decade, Leclerc has been living in homeless shelters in NYC trying to work and go to school at the same time. This burden has caused him massive anxiety and mental breakdowns.

Every year, Medicaid spends a significant amount of funds to pay for the hospital bills of homeless people who suffer from mental or physical issues. Doctors can help heal their symptoms for a short period of time until they are released from the hospital, but this just causes a cycle of treating the same patients over and over for the same issues. This also perpetuates the lack of funding for treating recurring medical issues.

High government spending is a severe problem in New York. As far as Medicaid expenditures go, New York is ranked as the second largest-spending state in the country, right behind California. New York state’s Medicaid expenditure amounted to 45.3 percent in 2016.

What is prescription housing?

Housing is one of the underlying necessities for the critical health of the homeless. Living without housing leads to severe health hazards and increases the chances of pre-existing health issues.

One solution that can greatly save money on Medicaid expenditures in New York State is to prescribe housing for the homeless. Prescription housing is a new proposal that would allow doctors to prescribe a more effective long-term treatment instead of just medication.

A bill was introduced by State Sen. Josh Green at the start of 2017 to allow doctors to prescribe housing in Hawaii. Green thought up the bill from his own experiences as a doctor who frequently saw homeless patients but possessed only meager solutions. To qualify for the bill, individuals would have to have been homeless for six months or more and be suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.

Green argues that prescribing housing prevents overspending on Medicaid. According to an annual report from the Helping Hands Hawaii in 2015, health care spending decreased after homeless people that were struggling with mental illnesses and addictions were provided with housing. Prescribing housing to the homeless also costs significantly less than their health care costs for hospital bills. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass Hawaii’s House of Representatives; but Hawaii is not the only state that is seeking such government approval.

The rise of prescription housing

Other states in the country, such as California and New York, are experimenting with prescription housing in order to help more and spend less on Medicaid. According to the O’Neill Institute, New York is using State Medicaid funding to establish and pay rent for housing complexes. California also has granted a federal waiver to support Homeless Medicaid recipients. Washington State has become one of the first states to gain federal approval for using Medicaid funding for the purposes of prescribing housing; However, the state cannot support said rent or the building of housing units for the homeless.


Prescription housing makes sense for people like Leclerc’s roommate.

Leclerc is currently living in a friend’s apartment while working as a staff member for the New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth. He was a client for the organization when he was homeless and now wants to make a difference in the lives of homeless youths. Leclerc is trying to find housing of his own while remaining there for his clients in the homeless organization. He anticipates that the state will soon take greater action in regards to prescription housing and the homeless. He also believes that, if prescription housing in New York continues to develop, then there will be regulations for supervising and accounting for the homeless.

Prescription housing is a logical solution that will save money on health insurance and ensure a reduction in the homeless rate. With this proposal, funding for health insurance will be used more effectively.


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Posted 07.09.2018 - 12:24 am EST