Medical care makes up just a fraction of what determines a person’s health, and a new study makes the case that Medicaid in Texas should support non-medical services because of their health impacts and return on investment. While medical experts and public health officials have long been touting the importance of the social determinants of health, the report from Episcopal Health Foundation and the Center for Health Care Strategies provides some hard evidence about why these services should be funded in the Lone Star State.
Healthcare leaders always want issues addressed upstream. Early cancer detection results in better outcomes and is less expensive to treat, and a healthier lifestyle can often prevent diabetes. In recent years, other non-medical services have been added to the conversation. Social, educational, safety, transportation, and food security majorly impact a person’s mental and physical health. If a program like Medicaid (or commercial health insurance) prevents downstream medical costs, it only makes sense to use those funds to address all the factors that impact health, especially if they are less costly than hospital procedures and expensive medication.
“Medical care makes up about 20 percent of what determines a person’s health, yet right now we spend almost all health dollars – including Medicaid – treating conditions medically and not preventing disease outside the exam room,” said Dr. Ann Barnes, a physician, and CEO of Episcopal Health Foundation via release. “We have to change the way we think about health and how we pay for it. The report shows how things could change for the better in Texas.”
The organizations that administer Medicaid benefits can experiment with how they use government funds to improve the health of their clients. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been more open to its funds being spent on