More on Population Health

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois invests $1 million in housing

An estimated 80% of the homeless population has at least one chronic health condition.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a division of Health Care Service Corporation, is investing $1 million in housing in Chicago.

The insurer is among the initial private funders in a public/private partnership known as Chicago's Flexible Housing Pool, which coordinates permanent supportive housing for the homeless community, as well as crucial wraparound support services.


Investing in housing has been shown to decrease hospital utilization, save money and improve outcomes.

The two-year, $1 million-dollar grant will help the Flexible Housing Pool to secure affordable housing for people who are experiencing homelessness and have been frequent users of hospital emergency rooms and other crisis response systems.

When estimates show that more than 80% of all homeless people have at least one chronic health condition, investing in housing means this population can better focus on their care, according to Dr. Derek Robinson, chief medical officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

To increase the likelihood of improved health outcomes, the housing subsidy is paired with intensive case management for health and social services.


The program was created in 2017 when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance creating the flexible housing pool and provided initial funding. The first participant received housing in March 2019and a total of 26 people have been housed so far. The City of Chicago aims to eventually create 750 units of supportive housing.

The Flexible Housing Pool is modeled after a program in Los Angeles County that found that for every $1 invested in the program, Los Angeles County saved $1.20 by reducing healthcare and other social service costs.

Emergency room visits decreased by 67.5% and the number of days of in-patient stays decreased by 77%.


"We know that factors outside the scope of healthcare – such as lack of access to housing, food and transportation, play a major role in a person's ability to be healthy. They may also add to medical costs," said Maurice Smith, president of Health Care Service Corporation.

"This FHP grant is just our latest effort," said Clarita Santos, executive director Community Health Initiatives for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. "Since 2017 we have given nearly $450,000 in funding for programs aimed at supporting access to housing to improve health."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer:

Focus on Social Determinants of Health

In September, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare IT News and MobiHealthNews will take a look at the SDOH and how varied health systems, IT companies, Congress and others are addressing it.