Housing, healthcare sectors must collaborate for seniors: report

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Those working in housing and healthcare must collaborate regularly in order to harness the opportunities presented by the expanding population of older adults, according to a new background paper [PDF] released by the Bipartisan Policy Center's Health and Housing Task Force.

By more closely connecting healthcare and housing, older adults' health outcomes can be improved, healthcare system costs can be reduced, and millions of older adults can “age in place” in their own homes or the setting of their choice, according to "America's Growing Senior Population: Assessing the Dimensions of the Demographic Challenge." "Making these connections is all the more important as federal government spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs is projected to grow much faster than the overall economy over the next 25 years," the authors write.

The paper describes success stories from across the country:

  • Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, a network of 11 nonprofit organizations, has shown how housing providers can work more effectively with the healthcare system, including accountable care organizations and managed care organizations.
  • Vermont's Senior and Services at Home program, run by housing provider Cathedral Square, has combined housing and supportive services to slow the rate of growth of Medicare spending.
  • Multistate housing providers such as National Church Residences and Mercy Housing use housing as a platform to deliver healthcare and other services.

Medicaid home and community-based services waivers, healthcare and social-services providers, employers and insurers are demonstrating leadership as well, according to the report.

The BPC task force said it is working to:

  • Increase the supply of affordable housing for older adults, particularly housing with supportive services.
  • Identify opportunities for further programmatic collaboration between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve outcomes and promote greater efficiencies.
  • Identify barriers to the integration of acute care and HCBS in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and explore how to scale up successful models of care so that older adults can remain at home or in the community.
  • Highlight best practices for integrating housing and health drawn from a range of politically diverse states and localities.
  • Identify cost-effective ways to modify U.S. homes and communities to make independent living for older adults safe and viable.
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