BDT Broadcast

April 21, 2015

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Awards Research Grant to BDT and Partners to Measure Impact of Benefits Access on Healthcare Outcomes

The healthcare sector is in the midst of a major shift to achieve improved health outcomes and reduced costs by addressing the social (i.e. non-medical) determinants of health. Research clearly shows that unmet social needs lead to poor health outcomes, as well as frequent and expensive emergency room visits, hospitalizations and nursing home attendance. Public benefit programs address many of the social determinants of health that impact low-income individuals, helping them meet basic needs such as food, shelter and medical care. However, researchers have not yet explored whether non-clinical interventions  – such as enrollment into federally-funded public benefit programs – improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

To shed light on this question, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded a research grant to Benefits Data Trust (BDT) to measure the impact of benefits access on healthcare utilization among low-income seniors, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), Department of Human Resources(DHR), the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Through this research, BDT and its partners hope to bring the healthcare sector one step closer to understanding how to treat the whole patient and reform healthcare delivery systems.

The study will focus on the impact of SNAP (food stamps) and home energy assistance on community-dwelling, dual-eligible seniors (i.e., seniors eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid) residing in Maryland. Dual-eligibles represent a particularly vulnerable population with high healthcare costs. The study leverages BDT’s unique cross-agency data-matching strategy to increase older adults’ participation in public benefits through the MD Benefits Center. By matching medical claims data to benefits enrollment data for dual-eligibles, this research will provide a roadmap to understanding the true impact that safety net programs have on healthcare outcomes.

About Benefits Data Trust

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) is a national not-for-profit organization committed to transforming how individuals in need access public benefits. BDT believes that all vulnerable families and individuals should be able to secure the benefits that enable them to achieve stability in a manner that is simple, comprehensive, and cost-effective. Since its inception in 2005, BDT has partnered with federal, state, and local government, as well as private corporations and community based organizations, to complete more than 430,000 applications on behalf of individuals across the nation. When translated into benefit dollars, BDT’s efforts have assisted low-income individuals in accessing over $4 billion.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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