CMS to Medicaid Directors: You Can Use Medicaid to Help Homeless People

In June, the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare. That was good news for the almost 6 million people who would have lost their health care insurance if the ruling had gone the other way.

The ruling also meant that Obamacare is likely to remain intact. And with Obamacare in place, more and more states are likely to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people with low incomes, not just families or people with disabilities. This means that the majority of extremely low income and homeless persons can keep their access to health care in places that have expanded Medicaid. To date 30 states have expanded their Medicaid coverage. And other states may join the list.

So what does this mean for homelessness?

1) Fewer people will become homeless due to the cost of a health care crisis or chronic condition.

2) Communities will be able to use Medicaid to pay for services to help people regain and stay in housing.

With all the excitement around the Supreme Court ruling, it was easy to overlook a document published soon after by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that clarified the circumstances under which states can use Medicaid to fund housing-related services and activities. The document explains the relationship between housing and health and covers:

  1. Specific activities that Medicaid can fund:

    • Housing case management;
    • Housing assessments;
    • Assistance with housing applications and housing search activities;
    • Environmental reviews of living spaces for safety;
    • Landlord mediation;
    • And much more.
  2. How states can set up their Medicaid program to pay for these activities.

It’s important that communities understand this document is intended for state Medicaid directors and agencies. With all the new changes in health care, State Medicaid agencies are obviously overwhelmed, but when CMS says housing supports are a good idea, state Medicaid directors are more likely to take notice.

So if you’re a homeless advocate, what’s your role?

You can use the release of this document as an excuse to reach out to health care payers, including your local state Medicaid Agency, Managed Care Organizations, hospitals, and other providers of Medicaid services. Recently, the Alliance partnered with several other national advocacy organizations to promote this document and show advocates how they can start this conversation about maximizing the use of Medicaid to free up money for more housing.

You can find more information about this effort on our website.