Health Care Utilization Patterns of Homeless Individuals in Boston: Preparing for Medicaid Expansion Under the Affordable Care Act
Objectives: We studied 6494 Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) patients to understand the disease burden and health care utilization patterns for a group of insured homeless individuals. Methods: We studied merged BHCHP data and MassHealth eligibility, claims, and encounter data from 2010. MassHealth claims and encounter data provided a comprehensive history of health care utilization and expenditures, as well as associated diagnoses, in both general medical and behavioral health services sectors and across a broad range of health care settings. Results: The burden of disease was high, with the majority of patients experiencing mental illness, substance use disorders, and a number of medical diseases. Hospitalization and emergency room use were frequent and total expenditures were 3.8 times the rate of an average Medicaid recipient. Conclusions: The Affordable Care Act provides a framework for reforming the health care system to improve the coordination of care and outcomes for vulnerable populations. However, improved health care coverage alone may not be enough. Health care must be integrated with other resources to address the complex challenges presented by inadequate housing, hunger, and unsafe environments.
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Homelessness is associated with a very high prevalence of substance use and mental disorders and elevated levels of acute health service use. Among the homeless, little is known regarding the relative impact of specific mental disorders on healthcare utilization. The aim of the present study was to examine the association between different categories of diagnosed mental disorders with hospital admission and length of stay (LOS) in a cohort of homeless adults in Vancouver, Canada. Methods Participants were recruited as part of an experimental trial in which participants met criteria for both homelessness and mental illness. Administrative data were obtained (with separate consent) including comprehensive records of acute hospitalizations during the 10 years prior to recruitment and while participants where experiencing homelessness. Generalized Estimating Equations were used to estimate the associations between outcome variables (acute hospital admissions and LOS) and predictor variables (specific disorders). Results Among the eligible sample (n = 433) 80 % were hospitalized, with an average of 6.0 hospital admissions and 71.4 days per person during the 10-year observation period. Of a combined total 2601 admissions to hospital, 1982 were psychiatric and 619 were non-psychiatric. Significant (p <0.001) independent predictors of hospital admission and LOS included a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, as well as high (≥32 service contacts) non-psychiatric medical service use in the community. Conclusions Our results demonstrate that specific mental disorders alongside high non-psychiatric service use were significantly associated with hospital admission and LOS. These findings suggest the importance of screening within the homeless population to identify individuals who may be at risk for acute illness and the implementation of services to promote recovery and prevent repeated hospitalization. Trial Registration ISRCTN57595077; ISRCTN667217400Comments 0Citations
- "In addition, fragmentation of health services, un-met health care needs [2, 3, 16], and barriers to care [17, 18], may increase reliance on hospital and acute care, often for medical conditions that could be prevented or treated in community settings [4, 19]. Inpatient hospitalization rates for homeless adults are two and a half  to five times higher  in comparison to non-homeless groups, with substance use [21, 22], mental disorders [23, 24], and co-occurring disorders [6, 7] , contributing to higher admission rates. Moreover , homeless patients experience longer lengths of stay , and higher costs per discharge when compared to housed individuals . "
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Homelessness, HIV, and substance use are interwoven problems. Furthermore, homeless individuals are frequent users of emergency services. The main purpose of this study was to identify risk factors for frequent emergency room (ER) visits and to examine the effects of housing status and HIV serostatus on ER utilization. The second purpose was to identify risk factors for frequent ER visits in patients with a history of illicit drug use. A retrospective analysis was performed on 412 patients enrolled in a Boston-based health care for the homeless program (HCH). This study population was selected as a 2:1 HIV seronegative versus HIV seropositive match based on age, sex, and housing status. A subgroup analysis was performed on 287 patients with history of illicit drug use. Chart data were analyzed to compare demographics, health characteristics, and health service utilization. Results were stratified by housing status. Logistic models using generalized estimating equations were used to predict frequent ER visits. In homeless patients, hepatitis C was the only predictor of frequent ER visits (OR 4.49, p<0.01). HIV seropositivity was not predictive of frequent ER visits. In patients with history of illicit drug use, mental health (OR 2.53, 95% CI 1.07-5.95) and hepatitis C (OR 2.85, 95% CI 1.37-5.93) were predictors of frequent ER use. HIV seropositivity did not predict ER use (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.21 - 0.97). In a HCH population, hepatitis C predicted frequent ER visits in homeless patients. HIV seropositivity did not predict frequent ER visits, likely because HIV seropositive HCH patients are engaged in care. In patients with history of illicit drug use, hepatitis C and mental health disorders predicted frequent ER visits. Supportive housing for patients with mental health disorders and hepatitis C may help prevent unnecessary ER visits in this population.0Comments 2Citations
- "In a recent analysis of costs of 6,494 persons served by a Boston HCH program, total annual expenditures due to ER visits was estimated as $16,011,738 annually. In the same study, it was found that approximately half of the total expenditures were incurred by just 10% of the study population  . Multiple factors have been identified as predictors of frequent ER use in homeless persons such as older age, previous hospital admissions and emergency room visits, multiple primary care visits, perceived inadequate mental health care, poor health status, and HIV789. "
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Homeless patients are a vulnerable population with a higher incidence of using the emergency department (ED) for noncrisis care. Multiple charity programs target their outreach toward improving the health of homeless patients, but few data are available on the effectiveness of reducing ED recidivism. The aim of this study is to determine whether inappropriate ED use for nonemergency care may be reduced by providing charity insurance and assigning homeless patients to a primary care physician (PCP) in an outpatient clinic setting. A retrospective medical records review of homeless patients presenting to the ED and receiving treatment between July 2013 and June 2014 was completed. Appropriate vs inappropriate use of the ED was determined using the New York University ED Algorithm. The association between patients with charity care coverage, PCP assignment status, and appropriate vs inappropriate ED use was analyzed and compared. Following New York University ED Algorithm standards, 76% of all ED visits were deemed inappropriate with approximately 77% of homeless patients receiving charity care and 74% of patients with no insurance seeking noncrisis health care in the ED (P=.112). About 50% of inappropriate ED visits and 43.84% of appropriate ED visits occurred in patients with a PCP assignment (P=.019). Both charity care homeless patients and those without insurance coverage tend to use the ED for noncrisis care resulting in high rates of inappropriate ED use. Simply providing charity care and/or PCP assignment does not seem to sufficiently reduce inappropriate ED use in homeless patients. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.0Comments 2Citations
- "Some studies reported that providing charity insurance can decrease inappropriate ED utilization. Lack of health insurance which usually refers to self-paid homeless patients was strongly associated with inappropriate ED utilization in several studies, whereas other studies showed little or no association [3,121314. Similarly, providing PCP clinics to homeless patients has also been studied. However these trials were more focused on providing mental health care and prescription medication services. "