Counties Applaud New Opportunity for Pre-Release Medicaid Coverage for Incarcerated Individuals

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WASHINGTON – The National Association of Counties (NACo) today applauded action from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that would allow state Medicaid programs to cover health services for individuals who are incarcerated in the period immediately prior to their release.  

The Medicaid Reentry Section 1115 Demonstration Opportunity will help incarcerated individuals receive health services under Medicaid at least 30 days prior to release from jail or prison. Counties in participating states will have the opportunity to expand access to vital mental health and addiction services, decreasing recidivism and improving health outcomes for individuals reentering the community while reducing healthcare and criminal justice costs. 

“Continuous health coverage – particularly through the transition period between jail and reentry – is essential for ensuring health and well-being, reducing recidivism, and protecting the overall health and safety of our communities,” said NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Uninterrupted health coverage is deeply important to counties as America’s safety net for health care. This new guidance will enable better coordination of care, improve outcomes and lower costs to taxpayers.” 

Approximately 11 million people cycle in and out of local jails each year, with the majority suffering from substance abuse issues, mental illness or both. Counties operate nine out of 10 local jails nationwide and are required to provide health coverage for incarcerated individuals, six out of 10 of whom are presumed innocent and awaiting due process.  

To facilitate continuity of care and treatment, NACo has long advocated for reforms to the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP), including those incorporated into the Medicaid Reentry Section 1115 Demonstration Opportunity. For more NACo resources on MIEP, click here.