New enrollment data suggests Obamacare's optional expansion of Medicaid could actually lower costs for states by helping prison inmates a population in great need of health care, reports ThinkProgress. Under the expansion, one-third of the 21 million low-income Americans now eligible for health insurance are either current inmates or are now on parole or probation.
The Cook County Jail in Chicago has submitted more than 4,000 applications for its inmates since the start of this year. In the Portland area, over 1,200 inmates are now enrolled. If all states followed suit, over 7.3 million current or former prisoners would have health insurance. In California, about a quarter of the $47,000-a-year cost to house an inmate goes toward health care. Yet it costs the state just $3,558 to provide an individual with Medicaid. Even in states with lower prison costs, keeping an inmate in jail usually costs tens of thousands of dollars, while the national average cost for states to provide one person with Medicaid is $5,352.