Stable housing essential to Medicaid transformation project

By Brian Bonlender
Washington State Department of Commerce Director

This week we celebrate moving one step closer to a healthier Washington as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) greenlighted our state’s Medicaid transformation demonstration project. It’s one of only a handful of projects across the country that will test the best paths to a care system that results in better health, higher quality and lower costs.

Commerce has a unique role in this multi-agency Medicaid demonstration project led by the Health Care Authority. One of the ways our agency strengthens communities is by funding a range of homeless assistance services. In approving Washington’s demonstration project to move forward, CMS recognizes the crucial element of supportive housing services for better long-term health outcomes at lower costs.

Mental illness is one of the leading contributors to homelessness. Some of our most vulnerable people need more than medical care. Stable housing is essential. Without it, disabled people move from the street into the emergency care system in an often endless cycle. Using Medicaid dollars to fund wrap-around services for supportive housing will help reduce the utilization of high-cost emergency room care.

We believe the state’s health care system can serve these highest-need individuals better and save money over the long-term by investing upfront to provide a roof and supportive services. Getting people off the street gives them – and the system – a fighting chance to end reliance on costly emergency room visits.

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