Hospitals are increasingly buying up real estate as part of an effort to help alleviate the homeless crisis that’s affecting many parts of the U.S. The problem for hospitals is that some patients, after receiving treatment, have nowhere to go once they’re discharged.
Insurance companies generally refuse to pay for patients once they’re immediate problem has been treated, but hospitals are sometimes left struggling to release those who have nowhere to go.
As a result, some hospitals that allow patients to stay after treatment are struggling to provide beds for other patients.
“We could be receiving revenue from a patient who needs hospitalization, but instead we’re covering the cost of that patient occupying a bed,” Peg Burnette, chief financial officer at Denver Health, told FOX News.
Now, some hospitals are trying to do something about the situation. For example, Denver Health told FOX News it’s teaming up with the Denver Housing Authority to renovate an unused building on its hospital campus. The plan is to offer low-income senior housing at the building, with one floor to be leased back to the hospital that can offer extra beds for “transitioning patients” that have nowhere to go. The hospital will then coordinate with authorities to try and find those patients more permanent housing, it said. By providing transitional housing, the hospital believed it will be able to save money. At present, the average cost to house a single patient at Denver Health is $2,700 per day.
Elsewhere, the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences Systems has started a pilot program this year with 26 patients and hopes to eventually house 75 patients, also to address housing aftercare.
“Homelessness tends to be invisible in health care,” Stephen Brown, director of preventive emergency medicine at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, told Fox News.
More hospitals are seeking to address it. In records dating back to the late 1990s, the hospital discovered about 10,000 patients believed to be homeless who had channeled through its care over the years.
"We're just a hospital and we're a player in this,” Brown says. “But it really requires a cross-sector approach to solving this really kind of wicked problem in society.”