SDH Learning Series Highlights Medical-Financial Partnerships

September 11, 2023

GNYHA continued its Social Determinants of Health (SDH) Learning Series with a webinar on the role of financial security and medical-financial partnerships (MFPs) in addressing SDH and health outcomes. Panelists discussed interventions that address financial insecurity within the hospital and the community, how these interventions affect health outcomes, and programs and partnerships that address patients’ financial and unmet social needs.

Income “very strongly” predicts life expectancy, with a roughly 10- to 15-year age difference between those with the highest incomes and those with the lowest, said panelist Adam Schickedanz, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, who oversees several MFPs. About half of US households suffer from financial insecurity coupled with stress over one’s financial future, he noted, adding that it’s not just about income. “Many dimensions of financial security can impact health,” including debt levels, which tend to correlate with poor mental health outcomes. “In short, poverty kills—and is the primary implementer of structural racism.” Health systems around the US have responded to this problem by building programs, including MFPs, that integrate financial and health services to improve low-income patients’ financial, physical, and mental health, he said. Dozens of health systems in 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, currently have MFPs. Dr. Schickedanz also noted that the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the second largest hospital system in the US after NYC Health + Hospitals (NYC H + H), is now implementing an MFP.

Monique Fraser, Program Manager, Tax and Income Support, Office of Ambulatory Care and Population Health, NYC H + H, discussed how her system, the largest safety net in the US, partnered with the NYC Free Tax Prep initiative to provide free tax preparation services to low- and moderate-income families in the community. “We wanted to make the services more accessible to our patients but also more equitable,” said Ms. Fraser.

Tegan Lecheler, Community Manager, the Bridge Project, which addresses child poverty in New York, detailed how the 501(c)3 organization supports the healthy development of babies during their first 1,000 days of life by providing mothers with $1,000 in cash every month for three years. Program participants also receive a $1,500 upfront prenatal allowance. By this year’s end, the Bridge Project will have expanded to all of New York City’s five boroughs and across the State.

The SDH Learning Series is part of GNYHA’s programming to support members’ broader SDH efforts. GNYHA’s population health initiatives address patients’ non-health care needs as part of comprehensive strategies to improve health while reducing avoidable hospitalizations and improving performance on quality measures.