The federal government would provide funding to help address social determinants of health within Medicaid populations under a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week.
According to a legislative summary prepared by one of the bipartisan bill’s sponsors,
Economic and social conditions have a powerful impact on our health and wellness. Stable housing, reliable transportation and access to healthy foods are all factors that can make a difference in the prevention and management of many health conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart disease. Known as social determinants of health, a focus on these non-medical factors can improve health outcomes and wellbeing. States are increasingly looking to deploy social determinants of health interventions to manage costs and improve health outcomes within their Medicaid programs. However, one of the greatest challenges to high-impact interventions is the difficulty in navigating and coordinating fragmented and complex programs aimed at addressing healthcare needs, food insecurity, housing instability, workforce supports, and transportation reliability, among others.
To address these challenges, the bill would
… help states and communities devise strategies to better leverage existing programs and authorities to improve the health and well-being of those participating in Medicaid. The legislation will provide planning grants and technical assistance to state, local and Tribal governments to help them devise innovative, evidence-based approaches to coordinate services and improve outcomes and cost-effectiveness.
Such legislation could be especially beneficial to the communities served by private safety-net hospitals, which generally can be found in low-income communities whose residents’ health is often shaped in large part by social determinants of health.