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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to Fund Nonprofit Organizations Providing Housing to People Experiencing Homelessness in Illinois

Five-Year, $12 million commitment aims to reduce health disparities and health care and social services costs

CHICAGO — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois announced today it will provide $12 million over five years to community organizations to help fund new permanent and temporary housing in Illinois. The effort is part of the insurer’s focus on housing to improve health outcomes. 

According to a 2023 study by the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago, non-elderly people who experienced homelessness have 3.5 times greater risk of mortality than those who are housed. BCBSIL data shows housing-insecure Medicaid members are admitted to emergency rooms twice as often as those who are housing secure which, in turn, yields greater medical costs.

“Social factors such as lack of access to housing, food and transportation — which are outside the scope of health care — can determine a person’s health and the costs of care they receive,” said Nancy Wohlhart, president of Medicaid at BCBSIL. “We’ve seen that housing can dramatically improve health outcomes and improve health equity, and that’s why we’re making this investment.”

BCBSIL is working to improve health outcomes for the community and its Medicaid members by identifying areas where improved housing access can have the greatest impact. Member eligibility for housing will be determined through BCBSIL assessments of care management and the care coordination process.

The first investments will target Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, suburban Oak Park and Dolton, and downstate Jacksonville.

This new investment underscores BCBSIL’s commitment to support community partners whose mission is to build a healthier Illinois. Housing insecurity aligns with the five focus areas of BCBSIL’s community investment strategy:

  • Economic Opportunity and Stability: Addressing issues such as poverty, removing barriers to employment, providing good jobs and upskilling.
  • Food Access and Nutrition: Supporting efforts to decrease hunger and increase access to nutritious food.
  • Neighborhood and Built Environment: Focusing on affordable healthy housing, access to transportation, safe outdoor spaces, and access to physical activity.
  • Locally Defined Health Solutions: Addressing hyperlocal health and human service needs, community collaborations that improve community wellbeing, interrupt violence, or build peaceful communities.
  • Optimal Health Outcomes: Helping close gaps in care, specifically around six priority areas: immunizations, diabetes care, cardiovascular care, behavioral health, early detection cancer screening and maternal and infant health.

Since 2019, BCBSIL has invested more than $5 million with community partners working to improve health and housing access throughout Illinois.

In 2019, BCBSIL announced a $1 million two-year investment to the Center for Housing and Health’s Flexible Housing Pool, a private/public partnership to find permanent housing for people experiencing housing insecurity in Chicago. Similar programs have shown a net reduction in health care and other social service costs for every dollar invested in housing. 

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About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is the largest health insurer in Illinois, serving 9 million members and operating in all 102 Illinois counties. BCBSIL is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Media Contact

Dave Van de Walle
(312) 653-9673

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association