Efforts underway to enroll former inmates in Medi-Cal

November 15, 2015

For years, many who left California lockups on parole or probation would do so without easy access to medical care. In 2013, however, the California Legislature passed a bill allowing county workers to help released prisoners enroll in Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. Supporters of the bill which allowed inmates sign up for coverage, say enrolling this population yields a financial benefit for the state, with fewer people returning to prison. Rates of mental illness and drug use are two to three times higher among probationers and parolees than others, according to federal data. A 2009 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation report found that inmates who underwent substance abuse treatment had a 35% drop in recidivism. A committee analysis for the bill, which was sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, included the cost, not savings, associated with the law: about $200 million a year in additional Medi-Cal charges. Jonathan Peterson, with the state's Legislative Analyst's Office, said that no further work has been done to evaluate the bill's impact. So far, L.A. County inmates have filled out 11,000 applications, a quarter of which have been approved and gone into effect for those released, said Sgt. Allan Lamonte with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, which oversees the county's jails.