WASHINGTON – The National Association of Counties (NACo), in partnership with more than 135 local and national community groups, health, mental health and justice organizations, sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance expressing support for the bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act (S.285) and urging that the Committee pass the legislation, which would allow Medicaid to cover health services thirty days before an individual is released from prison or jail.
An excerpt from the letter reads:
Allowing incarcerated individuals to receive services covered by Medicaid 30-days prior to their release from jail or prison will expand access to vital mental health and addiction services, thereby decreasing recidivism and improving health outcomes for individuals reentering the community. Furthermore, by investing in prevention, the Medicaid Reentry Act will provide savings on healthcare and criminal justice costs for jurisdictions across the country.
"The Medicaid Reentry Act will also help keep everyone in the community healthy, especially as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuous health coverage is vital for people to stay healthy and be able to access the care they need when they need it. Incarcerated individuals are at particular risk of contracting COVID-19. Making sure these individuals have uninterrupted health coverage, particularly during the transition period when they are reentering their communities, is essential for keeping them healthy, limiting spread of the virus, and protecting the health of the community overall."
Read the full letter here.
Approximately 11 million people cycle in an out of local jails each year, with the majority suffering from substance abuse issues, mental illness or both. The health needs of those incarcerated in local jails are exacerbated yet are often not being met. The Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP) strips federal health care benefits, such as Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for juveniles upon admission to jail, not adjudication. The antiquated policy does not acknowledge the difference between pre-trial detainees – who are presumed innocent under the Constitution – and those who have been convicted of a crime.
A joint task force of NACo and the National Sheriffs’ Association issued a report detailing the impact of the federal Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy and laying out steps governments can take to address the problem. Read the full report and learn about the NACo‑NSA Joint Task Force on Pre-Trial Detainee Health Care and Recidivism here.Standard