California health insurance can help people find housing in the state

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A new experimental plan has been rolled out through Medi-Cal for added support to plan members.

A new experimental California health insurance program has been launched to help ease the massive homelessness crisis occurring across the state.

The idea is that state residents will be able to obtain housing assistance through their coverage.

The program is called CalAIM. It is a unique, experimental California health insurance program that brings healthcare together with housing across the state for the first time. This new strategy allows certain Medi-Cal recipients that are at a certain high-risk and low-income level to be able to use their coverage to help them to locate subsidized or affordable housing, as well as to obtain the cash they need to make their housing deposit, and even to help them to prevent evictions, among other forms of assistance.

Program proponents say that this strategy underscores what social workers and doctors have been saying for many years: that it is particularly difficult for someone to remain healthy if they’re at risk of losing their home or if they’re already living on the street.

California health insurance - Heart in house

“There is no medicine as powerful as housing,” said UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations director and professor of medicine Dr. Margot Kushel. “And the health care system spends endless money and achieves poor outcomes because people don’t have access to housing.”

The California health insurance program is targeting Medic-Cal recipients in particular.

This program is expected to be especially helpful to people living in the Bay Area, where there are an estimated over 30,000 people who lack stable housing. Many of those people are in need of medical assistance as well. In both Santa Clara and Alameda counties, an estimated one in four unhoused residents suffer from chronic medical problems.

CalAIM is still a limited program. It is available only to the most vulnerable recipients of Medi-Cal, not every recipient. This includes people who are frequently in and out of emergency rooms, psychiatric wards or other institutions, who have a serious mental illness, are just leaving jail or prison, or are already homeless.

This has left some worried that there are many other people who could benefit from the housing assistance from their California health insurance but won’t quite qualify. Furthermore, while CalAIM does have the ability to support people in finding housing, can provide them with some of the cash they need for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent, there is a federal law that prohibits the program from providing ongoing assistance in paying rent. Moreover, the California health insurance program doesn’t address the shortage of housing itself that is ongoing in the state.

For more about CalAim Program: https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/calaim

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