Many people think of Hawaii as a tropical paradise where you can go during your vacation to escape your worries and truly enjoy life and everything the beautiful islands have to offer. However, much like the rest of the United States, it also struggles with homelessness.
Dr. Josh Green, a senator in the state legislature of Hawaii, has recently introduced a bill which seeks to classify the situation of being homeless as a medical condition. His inspiration for the bill comes from his experience as an emergency room doctor, where he saw how many homeless patients suffer from a variety of conditions like diabetes, different mental health disorders, and many other medical issues.
These types of medical conditions are incredibly hard to manage when the patients homeless or do not have any permanent housing conditions. Therefore, classifying homelessness as a medical condition would allow doctors to prescribe the cure for their situation, that is housing.
The new Hawaiian bill was introduced last week on the house floor, and if it passes, it would require insurance companies to cover the costs of housing homeless people. More specifically, Senator Green wants to redirect some of Hawaii’s $2 billion Medicaid annual budget to pay for the housing of patients.
He has stated that adopting such a measure would actually allow the Medicaid program to spend less money than it currently does for paying the frequent visits of homeless people to the emergency room. In this regard, the University of Hawaii conducted a study which showed that the healthcare costs of homeless people decreased by 43 percent when they had decent housing conditions for at least a period of six months uninterrupted.
Connie Mitchell, the director of the Institute for Human Services, the largest homeless services provider in Hawaii, supports the bill but warns that deciding which people can benefit from it can become quite a challenge. Homelessness is not always a situation determined by objective aspects, but by the choices people make, and the discussion can easily lead to an entitlement debate.
The future of the bill remains uncertain, but Hawaii might be open to such unconventional solutions to its problems, as the state has recently adopted a series of new programs meant to decrease the rate of homeless people.
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