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Medicaid Coverage for Individuals in Jail Pending Disposition: Opportunities for Improved Health and Health Care at Lower Costs

NCJ Number
Marsha Regenstein, Ph.D.; Jade Christie-Maples
Date Published
November 2012
21 pages
This report examines the need for individuals in jail pending disposition to be eligible for Medicaid coverage.
Prior to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, individuals in jail pending disposition of their case were ineligible to receive Medicaid coverage. With the passage of the ACA, a significant number of incarcerated persons became eligible for health care coverage. However, current Federal rules prohibit these individuals from receiving Medicaid coverage, even if they qualify. This leaves it up to the States to provide Medicaid coverage. Expanding Medicaid at the State level to allow for coverage for incarcerated individuals pending disposition could not only allow a highly vulnerable group of individuals with substantial physical, mental health, and substance needs to obtain health care, but it would also fulfill the spirit of the ACA by increasing access to comprehensive care. The expansion would also advance equity, provide health insurance for a disproportionately chronically ill population, increase integration and coordination of care by reducing gaps in health care, and position jails as potential enrollment catchment areas for vulnerable populations. And finally, the expansion of Medicaid coverage at the State level would also reduce health system costs, Social Security Supplemental Security Income, and criminal justice costs; provide access to health care at very low cost to the States; advance public health and social stability; and improve quality of care and data monitoring.