Social Needs, Chronic Conditions, and Health Care Utilization among Medicaid Beneficiaries

Amy McQueen, Linda Li, Cynthia J. Herrick, Niko Verdecias, Derek S. Brown, Darrell J. Broussard, Rachel E. Smith, Matthew Kreuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Health care organizations are increasingly assessing patients' social needs (eg, food, utilities, transportation) using various measures and methods. Prior studies have assessed social needs at the point of care and many studies have focused on correlates of 1 specific need (eg, food). This comprehensive study examined multiple social needs and medical and pharmacy claims data. Medicaid beneficiaries in Louisiana (n = 10,275) completed a self-report assessment of 10 social needs during July 2018 to June 2019. Chronic health conditions, unique medications, and health care utilization were coded from claims data. The sample was predominantly female (72%), Black (45%) or White (32%), had a mean age of 42 years, and at least 1 social need (55%). In bivariate analyses, having greater social needs was associated with greater comorbidity across conditions, and each social need was consistently associated with mental health and substance use disorders. In multivariable logistic analyses, having ≥2 social needs was positively associated with emergency department (ED) visits (OR = 1.39, CI = 1.23 - 1.57) and negatively associated with wellness visits (OR = 0.87, CI = 0.77 - 0.98), inpatient visits (OR = 0.87, CI = 0.76 - 0.99), and 30-day rehospitalization (OR = 0.66, CI = 0.50 - 0.87). Findings highlight the greater concomitant risk of social needs, mental health, and substance use. Admission policies may reduce the impact of social needs on hospitalization. Chronic disease management programs offered by health plans may benefit from systematically assessing and addressing social needs outside point-of-care interactions to impact health outcomes and ED utilization. Behavioral health care management programs would benefit from integrating interventions for multiple social needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-690
Number of pages10
JournalPopulation Health Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Medicaid
  • chronic disease
  • health status disparities
  • low-income population
  • patient care


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