People set to leave prison gaining access to Medicaid in five states

July 3, 2024

People transitioning out of prison in five states will be gaining access to Medicaid, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday.

Adults and youth often find delays in getting access to Medicaid, so the department announced that incarcerated people transitioning out of imprisonment will receive coverage before their release.

The coverage applies to Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Utah and Vermont.

California, Massachusetts, Montana and Washington had already been approved for the change, the department’s release said.

“This is an essential step for advancing health equity in our nation,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “For people involved in the justice system, ensuring a successful transition back into the community includes having the heath care supports and services they need.

The new opportunity allows a state to cover the services not otherwise coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Programs. Coverage can start up to 90 days before the person’s expected release from prison.

The coverage includes substance use disorder treatment. The department said incarcerated people often have a higher rate of substance use disorders, chronic health conditions and other health concerns that can impact public safety.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said it continues to work with other jurisdictions on reentry requests, including 14 other states and the District of Columbia.

“Access to health care can mean the difference between life and death as people return to communities,” Vikki Wachino, the executive director of the Health and Reentry Project said. “Evidence suggests that access to health care during the critical reentry period can improve health, save lives, reduce recidivism rates, and contribute to public safety.”