Homelessness is a Healthcare Issue: New Medical Group Will Treat Southern California Homeless Seniors
Date Posted: 07/08/2021
Dr. Michael Hochman will lead SCAN-backed venture; ‘This is street medicine wrapped in the framework of managed care’
LONG BEACH, Calif., July 8, 2021— With the population of unhoused individuals in California soaring to more than 161,000, SCAN Group, whose holdings include SCAN Health Plan, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, is launching Healthcare in Action, a new medical group that will provide healthcare and other services to individuals experiencing homelessness.
The new medical group will serve SCAN Health Plan members as well as members of other health plans.
The group’s focus will be on providing “street medicine” to older adults, who comprise one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. In Los Angeles County alone, the number of homeless individuals over age 55 is predicted to grow from 20,550 in 2011 to 36,045 in 2025—a 75 percent increase.
“Homelessness among older adults is a healthcare tragedy unfolding on the streets of our communities every night,” said Dr. Sachin Jain, president and CEO of SCAN Group and SCAN Health Plan. “For too long, homelessness has been defined as a housing issue alone. Often times, healthcare problems cause homelessness and homelessness can exacerbate healthcare problems and make it harder for people to get back on their feet. We are making a major commitment to address the healthcare causes and effects of homelessness.”
In a recent article in Forbes, Dr. Jain defined homelessness as a healthcare problem and laid out his vision for “a new medical group dedicated to providing comprehensive care to homeless adults.”
Under the auspices of the new medical group, doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, as well as teams of social workers, community health workers, substance use counselors and others will connect patients with community resources and other programs to address mental illness, substance use, and other root causes of homelessness. A key focus of the group will be to help those experiencing homelessness receive housing.
“We have to meet patients who are homeless where they are and provide them with the services they need on terms that work for them,” said Dr. Michael Hochman, a primary care doctor and the inaugural chief executive officer of Healthcare in Action. “When the moment is right, we will work with them to find a housing situation that meets their needs.”
Dr. Hochman is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program at UCLA. He was tapped to lead the new medical group based on his experience as the director of the USC Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science and Innovation and a senior health deputy to former LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. In both roles, Dr. Hochman was responsible for improving systems of care for underserved populations.
Managed Care Model
With its focus on older adults, Healthcare in Action will prioritize care for Medicare-eligible patients, including those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Precise numbers regarding insurance coverage for unhoused individuals are hard to pinpoint, but estimates indicate that well over half of those experiencing homelessness qualify for some form of health insurance.
With this in mind, the new medical group is basing its approach on successful managed care models used for Medicare enrollees. Medicare Advantage plans like SCAN Health Plan pay for healthcare services using capitation, which allows for greater flexibility in how care is delivered as well as better care coordination.
Similarly, Healthcare in Action will seek contracts with health plans that will grant the flexibility necessary to provide holistic care to patients who are living on the streets. Healthcare in Action will also work closely with community agencies – particularly housing services providers – to help their patients become housed. “This is street medicine wrapped in the framework of managed care,” said Dr. Hochman.
“For too long, the specific health needs of our homeless neighbors have gone unaddressed,” said Kevin Kappel, the chief operating officer of Healthcare in Action. “But we have the tools and knowledge to reimagine how we serve this vulnerable population. It’s time to embrace a new approach.”
Healthcare in Action will begin providing services on January 1, 2022, in several communities in Southern California.
About SCAN Group
SCAN Group is a mission-driven organization that is tackling some of the biggest issues in healthcare for older adults. The core of SCAN Group is SCAN Health Plan, one of the nation’s foremost not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, serving more than 220,000 members in California. Independence at Home, a SCAN community service, provides vitally needed services and support to seniors and their caregivers regardless of plan membership. SCAN Group also invests in new companies to support healthier aging, offers education programs, community funding, volunteer opportunities, and other community services in support of its mission—keeping seniors healthy and independent. To learn more, visit scanhealthplan.com or follow us on Twitter @scanhealthplan.