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The Hidden Revelations in the Affordable Health Care Act

Stateline - Medicaid Will Be Available to Ex-Prisoners Under Health Care Reforms

Inmates get health care while they’re in prison, such as this prisoner at San Quentin. Starting in January, ex-convicts will be eligible for health care provided through Medicaid. (AP)

Newly freed prisoners traditionally walk away from the penitentiary with a bus ticket and a few dollars in their pockets. Starting in January, many of the 650,000 inmates released from prison each year will be eligible for something else: health care by way of Medicaid, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

A sizeable portion of the nearly 5 million ex-offenders who are on parole or probation at any given time will also be covered.

The expansion of Medicaid, a key provision of the health care reform law, is the main vehicle for delivering health insurance to former prisoners.

 Expanding Coverage

Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance partnership for the poor. Under federal law, states must provide Medicaid to children, pregnant women and disabled adults who fall below certain income thresholds. The states are not now required to extend Medicaid to adults under 65 who are not pregnant or disabled. A small minority of states does so; most states do not.

Since most recently released prisoners are not pregnant or disabled, the vast majority of them do not have Medicaid or health insurance of any kind. As a result, studies show, many do not receive treatment for chronic conditions or continue on medications prescribed in prison. They also do not generally see primary care doctors, relying instead on emergency rooms, an expensive way of delivering medical care.

 

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