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Criminal justice

Supporting prompt access to Medicaid for inmates reentering society

APA calls on Congress to include the Medicaid Reentry Act in next COVID-19 relief bill.

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Strickland, A. (2020, September 3). Supporting prompt access to Medicaid for inmates reentering society.

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On Aug. 14, APA sent a letter (PDF, 61KB) to House and Senate leadership alongside over 120 other national, state, and local stakeholder groups calling for inclusion of the Medicaid Reentry Act (H.R. 1329) in Congress’s next COVID-19 relief package. Introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, this bipartisan bill would allow inmates in prisons and jails to receive services covered by Medicaid within 30 days of their release. Current law exempts “inmates of public institutions” from receiving Medicaid and upon release, many inmates find themselves waiting weeks or months to obtain Medicaid coverage. The letter highlights the need for prompt access to mental health treatment following release from jails and prisons, noting the heightened risk of drug overdose and suicide facing former inmates shortly after their release. The letter also describes how the Medicaid Reentry Act will promote greater racial equity in accessing care, given the “overrepresentation of Black and Brown people in jails and prisons.” 

On May 15, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1329, as part of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act Act (H.R. 6800). To this day, inmates in America’s prisons and jails remain particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the most recent data, more than 140,000 people have been infected and at least 932 inmates and correctional officers have died from COVID-19.  The Mental Health Liaison Group, of which APA is a longstanding an active member, has endorsed (PDF, 141KB) the bill and similarly urged Congress to enact the bill. 

For more information, contact Andrew Strickland.