The nation’s public housing authorities are seeking closer links to health insurers and medical care providers to address social determinants of health.
The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) says half of the nation’s public housing authorities are “pursuing health investments in housing.” Yet only 13% of large public housing authorities have “dedicated housing-health staff members,” research from the council and its partner, the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation, shows.
“Recent research shows that housing is both a social determinant of health and a platform for other services that improve life outcomes,” Council of Large Public Housing Authorities executive director Sunia Zaterman said. “What we’re learning from our members and the other public housing authorities that responded to our survey is that partnerships with the health care sector are the most effective way for public housing authorities to serve the health needs of their residents.”
CLPHA has 67 members across the country including housing authorities in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Chicago and cities throughout the U.S.
The interest by public housing authorities in these new relationships comes as the nation’s largest health insurers including Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, Anthem, Humana and Cigna are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to address social determinants of health whether it be housing, medicine or even food to reduce health care costs. As one example, UnitedHealth has invested $384 million to help build 3,400 units of affordable housing in more than 16 states since 2011, the insurer said last month at its annual investor day meeting in New York.
By investing in new ways to address social determinants of health, insurers say they are working to make sure patients are getting healthcare in the right place, at the right time and in the right amount. A monthly rent payment can be a less expensive way to take care of a patient and prevent a costly hospital stay in the future that could costs thousands of dollars a day.
Public housing authorities stand ready to work with the healthcare industry, offering their expertise and knowledge of the residents in their units. “We’re housers with expertise in the management and operation of affordable housing for low-income families and seniors, but we are not experts in the complexities of health care service delivery,” Zaterman said. “That’s why nearly all of the public housing authorities we surveyed work with a partner to provide health services. Most would do more if they had the funding and resources to commit to their health partnerships.”
The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities this fall announced a project with UnitedHealth Group’s UnitedHealthcare Community State and the Corporation for Supportive Housing that is designed to improve health by “aligning housing and health systems to improve health outcomes of Medicaid beneficiaries being served through managed care and living in federally assisted housing,” the council said. The effort, which is supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will focus on five communities: Columbus and Akron, Ohio; Houston and Austin, Texas; and the Seattle/King County area of Washington state.
“Our survey showed that only 8 percent of public housing authorities are partnering with managed care organizations to meet the health care needs of their residents, but we know that there is much more interest in this type of collaboration,” Zaterman said.