Programs link released inmates to healthcare following Medicaid expansion

June 10, 2015

An increasing number of states are striving to connect released prisoners to healthcare programs on the outside. Frequently, that means enrolling them in Medicaid and scheduling appointments for medical services before they are released. Some state programs - in Massachusetts and Connecticut, for example - provide help to all outgoing prisoners. Programs in some other states are more targeted. Those in Rhode Island and New York, for instance, focus on ex-offenders with HIV or AIDS. Elsewhere, probation and parole are being used to encourage ex-offenders to adhere to certain treatments. The goal of these programs isn't just to address the health needs of a notoriously unhealthy population, but to improve the likelihood they will succeed in society. In 2006 Massachusetts expanded Medicaid benefits to childless adults, including former prisoners. Starting in 2008, when the program was fully implemented, prison officials began working with inmates six months before their release to ensure they were enrolled in Medicaid once they got out. A 2011 UMass study of the program found that nearly 80% of former inmates were continuously enrolled in Medicaid during the first year after their release. The study also showed that in that first year of the program, a significantly higher percentage of former inmates obtained medical and behavioral health services, when compared to the rest of the adult Massachusetts Medicaid population. The study found that released inmates used ER at higher rates than the general Medicaid population. Since Massachusetts implemented the program, it has added other elements to its transition program.