California has embarked on an ambitious expansion of its Medicaid program, three years ahead of the federal expansion that the health law requires in 2014. At least half a million people are expected to gain coverage — mostly poor adults who never qualified under the old rules because they didn’t have kids at home, says NPR. Among those who stand to benefit are ex-offenders. Inmates often leave California prisons with no consistent place to get medical care. But that’s changing.
Many of those getting out of prison and other poor adults in California are being enrolled in a Medicaid-like program where they will be covered for preventive care, prescription drugs, specialty visits, and mental health and substance abuse — pervasive problems that when left untreated, researchers say, can lead offenders right back to prison or jail. Alex Briscoe runs the public health department in Alameda County, home to more than 1.5 million people, including an enormous ex-offender population. “Historically, services for this population are fragmented and tend to be episodic,” Briscoe says. “And what we’re trying to do is prepare for health reform by assigning all consumers in our system, all clients in our system, to a medical home.” Those preparations are important as California begins to comply with a court order to reduce its prison population