Study: Healthcare Costs Diminish When Social Needs Are Met

June 6, 2018

A study of Medicaid and Medicare Advantage plan members shows that addressing social determinants of health is important not only to reduce health spending, but also to improve patient outcomes.

Healthcare spending is substantially reduced when people are successfully connected to social services to address social barriers, or social determinants of health, according to a study published in Population Health Management.

Social determinants of health include secure housing, medical transportation, healthy food programs, and utility, and financial assistance, according to the study.

The retrospective, secondary data analysis examined medical expenditures associated with 2,718 WellCare Medicaid and Medicare Advantage plan members who accessed WellCare’s Community Assistance Line-a toll-free, nationwide line open to the general public.

“The findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that support for social service programs and interventions can improve community health outcomes and reduce healthcare spending, especially among Medicare and Medicaid populations who are often impacted by social determinants of health,” says Pamme Taylor, MBA, vice president, WellCare’s Center for CommUnity Impact.

In particular, the study, which assessed the impact of social services on healthcare costs, reported an additional 10% reduction in healthcare costs-equating to $2,443 per person per year savings-for people who were successfully connected to social services compared to a control group of members who were not.
 
The results of this study provide evidence supporting the vital work that needs to be done to connect patients with the resources and services they need to manage their health, according to the study.

“A person’s health problems cannot be addressed in a vacuum. Improving a patient’s health depends as much on taking care of basic human needs as it does on providing quality medical care,” Taylor says.

“The results from this study provide further evidence to support the work done to address a patient’s social determinants of health with the resources and services they need to manage their health,” she says. “Addressing social determinants of health is important not only to reduce health spending, but also to improve patient outcomes.”