Obamacare gave most low-income people Medicaid coverage, but when they are jailed or imprisoned, an old federal law means their Medicaid coverage disappears. This callous policy must change, the Washington Post says in an editorial. State and local officials complain they can only do so much when their jails and prisons are bursting with people struggling with addiction and mental health issues, people who, without care, are at high risk of reoffending and returning to custody. An end to the inmate exclusion policy and an infusion of Medicaid funding would help dramatically, the Post says.
Federal law requires that even those who are jailed while awaiting trial lose Medicaid coverage. About 60 percent of people in jail have not been convicted. “It is heartless as well as foolish to revoke their health-care coverage because they cannot make bail,” the newspaper says. Even if they get out quickly, it often takes time for Medicaid coverage to restart. That can be disastrous for someone trying to get clean or stay on a mental-health regimen. Ending the Medicaid exclusion for people behind bars would also boost the care they receive. As University of Michigan experts explained, “Hospitals and clinics in the civilian sector that receive federal funding from Medicaid must abide by guidelines set by the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services. Prisons and jails don’t. Repealing the exclusion policy would improve the quality of care provided in jails and prisons because they would have to adhere to federal health care standards.” Allowing Medicaid coverage to continue for those in custody would make it far easier for people with chronic health problems to receive care when they enter jail or prison and when they leave, says the Post.