Why Hospitals Are Snatching Up Real Estate

January 2, 2020

Hospitals are becoming bigger buyers of real estate in a large-scale effort to help alleviate the homeless crisis that is plaguing many areas across the country. After some patients receive treatment, they have nowhere to go.

Insurance will not pay for patients to stay after their immediate needs have been treated, but hospitals are struggling to release patients who have nowhere to go.

Those hospitals who let patients stay are finding themselves without enough beds for other patients. “We could be receiving revenue from a patient who needs hospitalization, but instead we’re covering the cost of that patient occupying a bed,” Peg Burnette, chief financial officer at Denver Health, told FOX News.

In one effort, Denver Health has partnered with the Denver Housing Authority to renovate an unused building on its hospital campus. It will offer low-income senior housing, and one floor will also be leased back to the hospital to offer extra beds for transitioning patients who have nowhere to go. Permanent housing will then be coordinated. The hospital says that providing transitional housing will also help the hospital save money in the end. The average stay for a patient at Denver Health is $2,700 a day; some patients have overstayed without payment by more than 12 to even 1,500 days, which has proven costly for the hospital.

University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences Systems has a pilot program starting this year with 26 patients and hopes to eventually house 75 patients, also to address housing aftercare. “Homelessness tends to be invisible in health care,” Stephen Brown, director of preventive emergency medicine at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, told Fox News. More hospitals are seeking to address it. In records dating back to the late 1990s, the hospital discovered about 10,000 patients believed to be homeless who had channeled through its care over the years.

"We're just a hospital and we're a player in this,” Brown says. “But it really requires a cross-sector approach to solving this really kind of wicked problem in society.”