A Chicago hospital is testing a simple solution for homeless people who often show up at the emergency room even though they are not sick: a place to live. Often called “frequent flyers,” some come in because they are cold or they need food or simply someone to talk with. Providing some of these patients a small apartment may sound extravagant but it may make more sense for both health and financial reasons.
The story tells of Glenn Baker who last winter “spent about 20 nights every month checked into different Chicago hospitals.”
In the medical world, patients like Baker are often called “superutilizers” or “frequent fliers” — people with a mix of chronic medical problems, mental health issues and homelessness that drive them to visit the hospital far more than the average patient.
There are thousands of these patients across the country. More than 55 million people are on Medicaid in the U.S. But according to a recent government report, about half of the program’s annual resources go to just 5 percent of its beneficiaries.
The University of Chicago Hospital will spend $250,000 this year to get 25 of its superutilizers their own apartment along with a case manager “who helps them do things like schedule doctor’s appointments instead of going to the ER.” The hospital pays about $1,000 a month for the apartment versus $3,000 a day for hospital care.
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Photo: NPR. Thanks, Barry Morris and Helen Million, for alerting us to this story!