On May 15, the United States House of Representatives passed COVID response legislation that included a provision relating to the to the health of justice-involved individuals. Section 30110 of this legislation, which was originally introduced as the Medicaid Reentry Act, would allow Medicaid to cover health services in the last thirty days before an individual is released from prison or jail.
Under current law, Medicaid does not cover health services when people are incarcerated. People who are incarcerated are considered “inmates of a public institution” and barred from receiving Medicaid benefits, even though most detained individuals are Medicaid eligible. This policy creates gaps that prevent people from accessing needed services and medications at release, including access to COVID-19 testing and treatment as people transition back to communities.
On June 15, COCHS CEO, Vikki Wachino, sent a letter to our partners and friends stressing that the Reentry Act would strengthen Medicaid’s role and allow it to support reentry services as an essential component of an overall public health strategy to reduce transmission of the coronavirus and mitigate potential future COVID surges. This letter also included links to two fact sheets that detail the substantial impact the Rentry Act would have on continuity of care and advancing the national response to COVID-19 —links to Vikki's letter and the two fact sheets are available below:
The Reentry Act can help state and local governments develop stronger approaches to treatment for substance use disorder and mental health. To illustrate the potential of strengthening Medicaid’s role at reentry, COCHS profiles Ohio’s Medicaid reentry program. Ohio has been a national leader in connecting people leaving incarceration to health care services. A 2018 evaluation of its program found high rates of connection to behavioral and physical health services, and program participants reported that the program made it less likely that they would return to prison or jail. Read our profile: How Strengthening Health Care at Reentry Can Address Behavioral Health and Public Safety: Ohio’s Reentry Program.