One Step Closer to Health Coverage for Homeless People

A big victory for the uninsured in America today, and a big victory for homeless people.  Our own healthcare for the homeless in Cleveland, Care Alliance, serves nearly 10,000 people per year.  88% of their clients do not have any insurance, 9% have regular medicaid, and 2% have Medicare with only 1% having private health insurance.  Today the United States Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, which will allow thousands of homeless people in Cleveland to find a health care home in America. There will be thousands currently living in subsidized housing who will now have access to affordable health care.  This is great news.  Most in the anti-poverty movement would like to see universal single payer coverage like almost every other industrialized country in the world, but we can settle for a step closer to health care justice. 

What this means for the homeless community is that agencies such as Care Alliance, the Neighborhood Clinics will have more people covered by some form of insurance.  So, while 88% of Care Alliance's clients are not covered by insurance today, that could go down to 68% in 2014.  This would free up resources for the local agencies to provide more mental health services or alcohol and drug treatment or dental care.  Both behavioral health and dental care are huge gaps in services in our community.  Any additional dollars that these health care agencies can find reimbursement for will allow other local, state and federal dollars to fill in some of the holes in health care coverage.  The men who have diabetes or other chronic health conditions should be able to find help so they are not bankrupted by hospital bills.   Those who need medicine every day should be able to find a doctor to help.  Preventative care will be more accessible in our community.  States will be required to set up a health care exchange so that people will be able to buy affordable health care.  Most states have waited until the Supreme Court decided the case before setting up the health exchanges. 

It is a great day in the United States.

Brian Davis