WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Sheldon Whitehouse are leading the Senate introduction of the bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act, legislation expanding access to addiction treatment and other health services for Medicaid-eligible individuals 30 days before their release from jail or prison. The bipartisan legislation is also being re-introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Michael Turner (R-OH-10).
Currently, federal statute prohibits any form of federal health coverage for incarcerated individuals except under very limited circumstances. In most states, Medicaid coverage is immediately terminated when someone is sent to a correctional setting.
This creates a serious coverage gap when individuals are released, as they often have no access to health care or addiction treatment during a stressful and dangerous time. This bill is a bipartisan response to this issue, following alarming evidence published in the New England Journal of Medicine that individuals reentering society are 129 times likelier than the general population to die of a drug overdose during the first two weeks after release.
“Reentry after incarceration is a critical time in the lives of those working to get back on their feet. Many often struggle with mental health and substance use disorder diagnoses, and any gap in coverage could prevent these individuals from accessing the treatment and health care services they need,” said Brown. “Everyone should have a right to quality, affordable healthcare.”
Specifically, the Medicaid Reentry Act will:
- Grant new flexibility to restart benefits for Medicaid-eligible incarcerated individuals 30 days pre-release;
- Make it easier for states to coordinate effective addiction treatment and other health services, allowing for a warm handoff to community care and a reduced risk of overdose deaths post-release; and
- Ensure a smooth transition back to Medicaid for those who are already eligible for Medicaid coverage.
A broad coalition of national organizations support the Medicaid Reentry Act, including A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing), Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American Jail Association, The American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, The Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Central City Concern, CleanSlate Centers, Clinical Social Work Association, Community Catalyst, Community Corrections Association, Community Oriented Correctional, Health Services (COCHS) HIV Medicine Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, International Community Corrections Association, The Kennedy Forum, Legal Action Center, Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), McShin Foundation, Mental Health America, NACo, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), National Council for Behavioral Health, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Commission on Correctional Health Care, National Criminal Justice Association, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, The National Safety Council, National Sheriffs Association, New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (ASAP), Shatterproof, The Student Coalition on Addiction (SCA), Treatment Communities of America, Well Being Trust, and the American Public Health Association.
More information about the legislation is available here.