New Report Profiles How Safety Net Health Plans Improve Health by Addressing Housing

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jeff Van Ness, (202) 204-7515


WASHINGTON—The Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP) released a new report detailing the efforts of 10 ACAP-member plans to improve the health of their members who are experiencing homelessness by working to improve their housing situations.

A shortage of affordable housing across the United States has led to the steady increase of homelessness; according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 549,928 people were homeless every night in 2016. That means about 1 in 500 people experienced homelessness, with about 16% of that population experiencing chronic homelessness.

The subject of homelessness has increasingly become a public health issue: Roughly 1 in 3 who experience homelessness have a serious mental illness. Two-thirds live with a substance abuse disorder.

“The scarcity of affordable housing has been a persistent issue in the U.S. What’s less obvious is the deep ties between housing and health. Safety Net Health Plans are a font of innovations for improving health through better housing, and this report shows how,” said ACAP CEO Margaret A. Murray. “The solutions they’re coming up with are too important to hide behind the word ‘proprietary.’ It’s important we share these best practices widely.”

The ten plans surveyed for the report documented similar problems. The heart of the issue is the affordability and accessibility of housing. With long waits on Section 8 housing lists, the shortage of housing curtails health plan efforts to break the chronic cycle of homelessness experienced by some of their members. Simply keeping track of homeless members is another common challenge; their transient housing arrangements quickly render information gathered by plans out of date. This hinders efforts made by providers and health plans to maintain channels of communication, leading to continuous, unresolved health outcomes for the homeless population.

The report also shows how adequate housing would also help rein in costs in addition to improving health outcomes by reducing unnecessary ER visits. Studies have shown that people experiencing homelessness are more likely to visit an emergency department and also are more likely to subsequently be readmitted within 30 days.

To improve outcomes for people who experience homelessness and connect them to housing services, the report recommends increasing coordination between local organizations – including the government, stakeholders and health plans.

ACAP Plans highlighted in the report include Partnership HealthPlan of California; CareSource; Boston Medical Center HealthNet/Beacon Health Option; Well Sense Health Plan; Community Health Group; UPMC for You; L.A. Care Health Plan; CareOregon; Inland Empire Health Plan; and Amida Care.

The report was authored by Nairi Varteressian, a past ACAP Policy Fellow. The full report, Breaking the Health and Housing Silos to Address Chronic Homelessness, is available here.

About ACAP
ACAP represents 62 Safety Net Health Plans, which provide health coverage to more than 21 million people in 29 states. Safety Net Health Plans serve their members through Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Marketplace and other health programs. For more information, visit

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