Florida wants to pilot a program that would reimburse managed-care plans for residential placement and other services for Medicaid enrollees with severe mental illness or substance use disorders.
If approved by the CMS, Medicaid beneficiaries in Florida would be eligible to receive services such as help searching and applying for a rental home and assistance finding ways to subsidize rent.
In the first year, Florida plans to cap use of the benefit to 42,500 enrollees, which is estimated to cost more than $9 million in state and federal dollars. The waiver was mandated as part of legislation that passed in the state earlier this year.
The CMS will accept comments on the proposal through Dec. 15.
Oregon has a similar pending waiver request at the CMS and just last month, the agency granted Washington state preliminary approval for a waiver that would allow it to help Medicaid enrollees find appropriate housing and provide tenant support.
Medicaid and Medicare dollars can not be used for rent, but the move is one of many recent acknowledgements that improving population health means addressing social, economic and environmental factors that influence health, such as housing.
“Living independently for many of these individuals can change their lives,” said Karen Koch, executive director of the Florida Supportive Housing Coalition. “Not only does it improve their recovery and their self-worth but it generally results in their ability to become self-sufficient and less dependent on public resources.”
Stable housing can also lead to decreased use of emergency rooms services and community hospitals and an increase in patients adhering to medications.
The benefit of addressing social determinants has led companies such as UnitedHealthcare to contract with homeless coalitions in Houston and Austin, Texas. The insurer is looking to find its Medicaid plan members stable and subsidized housing.