Health-related social needs, which include food insecurity, housing instability, and lack of transportation, are strongly associated with poor health outcomes, more health care use, and higher health care spending. Integrating human services that address health-related social needs into health care may address these issues. In this article we propose an innovative methodological approach (borrowed from developmental economics) called cash benchmarking, which can help determine when health care and human services integration is most useful. This is important because while integrating human services into health care offers potential benefits, it also comes with potential downsides—including the medicalization of social needs; deemphasis of upstream societal causes of health-related social needs, such as tax policy and labor conditions; and opportunity costs within the health care system, as resources are shifted to delivering social care. Ultimately, cash benchmarking can help stakeholders navigate closer to the promise, and away from the pitfalls, of health care and human services integration.
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