Affordable health care is coming to the San Francisco jail system, and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi thinks it will save taxpayers millions of dollars and potentially reduce the number of people behind bars in years to come, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The sheriff’s move will probably open up free or low-cost medical care to most of the 31,000 people booked into the city’s jails each year once they are released.
Mirkarimi introduced legislation before the Board of Supervisors making his office responsible for assisting county jail inmates with submitting applications for affordable health coverage, a legally required step before the signups inside the jail system can begin. Inmates won’t be eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act until they leave jail, but the sheriff’s move ensures they will have health care once they are released. The move could save the city millions of dollars in emergency room visits and other health care costs: The Sheriff’s Department estimates that San Francisco will save about $2,500 per year on each inmate it enrolls. “The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department will be one of the first county jail systems in the nation that’s officially designated to enroll inmates into the Affordable Care Act,” Mirkarimi said.