In Louisiana, the state that imprisons more of its citizens per capita than any other, the long-awaited July 1 launch of expanded Medicaid coverage will give those leaving prison a chance to continue what many describe as spotty treatment for the conditions that plagued them while behind bars, reports USA Today. Formerly incarcerated Louisiana residents describe prison and reentry as psychologically crushing for most people. Without access to health care when they leave prison, it’s often only a matter of time until many prisoners return. The imminent expansion at least gives many hope they can get some help for problems that helped send them to prison in the first place. “It’s unconscionable to just drop them off at a Greyhound bus station,” says physician and Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee. “They‘re just going to come right back.”
Without Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to extend Medicaid benefits to everyone below 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, only the rare person leaving prison in the Deep South had health care. They had to have a job that offered benefits they could afford or earn more than $33,000 for a family of four and be able to afford it with the subsidies available on the federal insurance exchange. Gee met with Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc about post-prison health care the day before Edwards held the first meeting of his new prison reform group on June 17. Expanding Medicaid was Edwards’ first official action. The governor said he’s determined to shed the distinction of being the incarceration capital of the industrialized world while he’s in office.