New federal rules will extend Medicaid coverage to nearly 100,000 former prison inmates in halfway houses.
In guidance released Thursday, the CMS clarified that people on probation, parole or in home confinement are not considered incarcerated and therefore could receive Medicaid benefits if they are eligible.
The CMS estimated the move will provide health coverage for more than 96,000 residents in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that have expanded coverage for adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. States that haven't agreed to expand Medicaid largely restrict coverage to children, pregnant women and disabled people.
A number of Medicaid expansion states are enrolling former inmates when they re-enter their communities as a way to avoid costly trips to emergency departments and reduce the risk of transmitting infectious diseases.
“It is important to understand the critical role access to healthcare plays in successful returns to the community for so many Americans trying to change their lives,” Richard Frank, HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, said in a written statement, adding that the guidance will include mental health and substance-use disorder treatment. Studies show those conditions, if left untreated, increase the rate of recidivism.
HHS officials also suggested states consider suspending Medicaid coverage instead of cutting it off when people are incarcerated so people still have access to benefits upon release.
The policy addresses some of the major health issues found among the ex-prison population, which is growing older and has a high prevalence of chronic disease and mental and substance-abuse issues.
The number of state and federal prisoners age 55 or older rose 204% between 1999 and 2012, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.