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When the Cure is a Meal, Not a Pill

December 18, 2016
Plain English Version

meal as cure1

More than 11 million Americans have joined the Medicaid rolls since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect. Experts are looking for ways to hold down the cost of treating them.

Many come to emergency rooms (ERs). They are often ill. However, many have non-medical problems such as homelessness, addiction, and mental illness or have suffered trauma.

As one county health official said, “We knew that poverty leads to ill health. We would pay to amputate a diabetic’s foot, but not for a warm pair of winter boots.”

Twenty-six states are using new outreach social service programs. They want to serve people before they need medical treatment.The aim is to lower health costs. Some programs address the problems that brought people to the ER.

For example, the pilot program in one state focused on the homeless. The program brought together social workers and local safety-net hospitals.

In New York, medical teams are trained to handle eviction notices like medical emergencies. In Philadelphia, community health workers shop for groceries with diabetic patients.

Hospitals are paid for health services, not the actions of social workers.

The ACA has billions of dollars set aside to try to reduce the cost of health care.

Reductions in medical services and the ER use will mean the loss of revenue for hospitals and other health centers. Will such reductions lead to an over-all reduction in medical and health care costs? That is the big question.

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