CMS recognizes 'street medicine' as billable care

Starting Oct. 1, CMS began allowing public and private insurers to pay "street medicine" providers for services delivered where homeless people might be staying, KFF Health News reported Oct. 16.

Previously, these providers could not be paid by most Medicaid programs for their services if they were not delivered in traditional medical facilities. The change allows providers to be reimbursed for care to patients in "a non-permanent location on the street or found environment."

It is the first time the government has recognized the streets as a legitimate place to provide healthcare. The new rules will primarily affect low-income, disabled and older people on Medicaid and Medicare.

"It's a game-changer. Before, this was really all done on a volunteer basis," Valerie Arkoosh, MD, secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, told KFF

The change came in response to the growing number of homeless people in the country and the "skyrocketing" number of people who need intensive addiction and mental health treatment. Nearly 600,000 people were homeless, according to 2022 federal estimates. Those without a stable home have an average life expectancy of 48.

There are more than 150 street medicine programs in the country.

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