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Filling the gap: The importance of Medicaid continuity for former inmates
Date:5/18/2009

of federal funds to cover medical, mental health or substance use treatment costs incurred by inmates in jails and prisons, Rich says that Medicaid law does not require that states terminate recipients' enrollment while incarcerated. Unfortunately, federal rules establish only the minimum requirements and states have the freedom to enact tougher regulations.

"This leaves many inmates potentially facing months of reenrollment paperwork and bureaucracy upon release before they can get any medical coverage," he says, noting that the process which also involves meeting with Social Security Income and Medicaid representatives to determine eligibility can often take up to three months.

Former inmates with mental health issues, who are often struggling with addiction, lack of transportation and homelessness, have the most difficulty with the complicated Medicaid re-enrollment process. Coincidentally, Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services and is a crucial resource for the 16 percent of inmates reporting current mental illness, as well as for the additional 14 percent reporting past psychiatric treatment.

Rich suggests that states follow the lead of New York, which passed Medicaid Suspension Legislation in 2007, requiring the state to suspend Medicaid for those who are enrolled at the time of incarceration and permitting immediate reinstatement upon release.

"With the United States now leading the world in the number of incarcerated individuals and length of sentences, the issue of Medicaid termination is critical, not just to the nearly 10 million people in our correctional system but to the communities and health care systems to which they return," Rich says.


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Contact: Jessica Collins Grimes
jgrimes2@lifespan.org
401-793-7484
Lifespan
Source:Eurekalert

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