MONDAY, Oct. 16, 2023 (HealthDay News) — A new rule allows health care providers to be reimbursed for treating homeless people wherever they are, rather than just in hospitals or clinics. The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began allowing this change for both public and private insurers on Oct. 1, KFF Health News reported.
Now doctors, nurses, and other providers can provide reimbursed care in a “nonpermanent location on the street or found environment.” Most of the patients who will be helped by this are low-income, disabled, and older people on Medicaid and Medicare, KFF Health News reported.
Other states had already taken this on, starting with California in 2021. Hawaii also does this, and street medicine teams already do work in big cities like Boston and Fort Worth, Texas. This change will allow that to be more expansive.
“It’s a bombshell,” Dave Lettrich, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Bridge to the Mountains, which provides outreach services to street medicine teams in Pennsylvania, told KFF Health News. “Before, you could provide extensive primary care, and even some specialty care, under a bridge, but you couldn’t bill for it.”
About 150 street medicine programs exist in the United States, including about 50 in California. That is double the number in that state compared with 2022, said Brett Feldman, director of street medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
Dramatically expanding care can interrupt the cycle of homelessness, the experts said, and reduce costly care, according to KFF Health News. California alone could be saved 300,000 emergency room visits, Feldman projected.
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