Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awards research grant to BDT and partners to measure impact of benefits access on healthcare outcomes

Philadelphia, April 21, 2015 – 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 the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 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 nonprofit that helps people live healthier, more independent lives by creating smarter ways to access essential benefits and services. Each year, BDT helps tens of thousands of people receive critical supports using data, technology, targeted outreach, and policy change. Since inception in 2005, BDT has submitted over 800,000 applications – more than any other single entity in the country – securing over $7 billion in benefits and services. BDT employs more than 170 people and provides enrollment assistance to individuals in six states, and policy assistance to states nationwide. For more information, visit

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