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March 23, 2015

Hospitals Seek to Save by Tackling Poor Patients' Daily Needs

Looking for new ways to contain health-care costs, medical systems across the country are experimenting with programs to help the neediest patients deal with daily problems before they mushroom into expensive hospital treatment, writes The New York Times.

Providers, insurers, and government bodies in more than two dozen states have launched efforts to explore whether hospitals can find savings by, for example, providing food and clothes or paying utility bills for poor or homeless people who might otherwise end up in emergency rooms.

“We had this forehead-smacking realization that poverty has all of these expensive consequences in health care,” said Ross Owen, a Hennepin County, Minn., health official. “We’d pay to amputate a diabetic’s foot, but not for a warm pair of winter boots.” The urban county has seen medical costs decline 11 percent a year since 2012, when it began a pilot program focusing on about 10,000 poor people covered by expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Art, even as experiments elsewhere have yet to show savings.