Can Medicaid Address the Housing Crisis?
Housing, nutrition and healthcare are basic human needs. Medicaid is a government-funded program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals and families. While it primarily focuses on medical care, Medicaid can also cover other services that are deemed necessary for the well-being of its beneficiaries. Medicaid can pay for medically necessary housing modifications, assistance in rental applications, and assistance in transfering people with disabilities from institutional to community-based homecare. However, rent or rental deposit assistance is not currently included in Medicaid’s list of covered services. Some states, such as California, have created Medicaid programs that offer housing-related services to eligible individuals.
Given the current nationwide housing crisis, there are arguments to be made for expanding Medicaid to include housing assistance. Providing temporary housing support could help individuals and families who are struggling to secure and maintain stable housing due to rising costs and limited availability. Medicaid funding could also potentially reduce healthcare costs by addressing health issues that can arise from inadequate or unstable housing conditions, such as respiratory problems or injuries. Adequate access to housing as a core basic need stabilizes chronic and acute healthcare problems; thereby reducing healthcare spending overall.
However, there are also potential challenges and concerns to consider with this idea. One concern is the funding needed to support such an expansion. Medicaid is already a significant expense for state and federal governments, and adding housing assistance could increase costs even further. There could also be potential issues with determining who is eligible for this assistance and how it would be administered. Currently, there are increasingly vast unmet housing needs. Unlike Medicaid, which is available to all those who meet eligibility requirements, housing is not available to all who meet the income requirements for public housing. There is simply more demand than supply. Opponents argue that using Medicaid to cure funding gaps in other programs could erode the core mission of providing healthcare to the low income.