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Study: Health Care Costs Reduced With Social Service Access

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A new study finds that health care spending is reduced by about 10 percent when patients using Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care plans  are connected to social services to help with things like housing, medical transportation, healthy food programs, and assistance with utility bills.

Health News Florida's Daylina Miller talked with Dr. Zachary Pruitt, the lead author on the University of South Florida College of Public Health study.

The study assessed the impact of social services among Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members on health care costs such as physician office visits and emergency department use, and reported a $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.

“While there is growing recognition that socioeconomic factors substantially affect a person’s health status, this research is an important step toward quantifying how addressing social determinants of health impacts health costs,” Pruitt said. “The results of our study show that providing social service assistance relates to significantly lowered healthcare spending.”

“These results provide evidence supporting the vital work we do in connecting our members with the resources and services they need to manage their health,” said Pamme Lyons Taylor of Tampa-based Well Care Health Plans, a major player in Florida’s Medicaid market. “We cannot address a person’s health problems in a vacuum; improving health depends as much on taking care of those basic human needs as it does on providing quality medical care.”

WellCare funded this research.

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Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.