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Hospitalization Costs Associated with Homelessness In New York City

Abstract: Homelessness is believed to be a cause of health problems and high medical costs, but data supporting this association have been difficult to obtain. We compared lengths of stay and reasons for hospital admission among homeless and other low-income persons in New York City to estimate the hospitalization costs associated with homelessness.

Results: For the homeless, 80.6 percent of the admissions involved either a principal or a secondary diagnosis of substance abuse or mental illness - roughly twice the rates for the other patients. The homeless patients stayed 4.1 days, or 36 percent, longer per admission on average than the other patients.

Conclusions: Homelessness is associated with substantial excess costs per hospital stay in New York City. Decisions to fund housing and supportive services for the homeless should take into account the potential of these services to reduce the high costs of hospitalization in this population.

reprint requests to Ms. Salit at the United Hospital Fund, Empire State Bldg., 350 Fifth Ave., 23rd Fl., New York, NY 10118.