LANCASTER, Ohio – Three Ohio agencies are pushing to get many inmates who are released from prison enrolled in Medicaid.
Agency officials were at the Southeastern Correctional Institution near Lancaster on July 27 to begin expanding Medicaid signups to men’s prisons, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1ex7oxG ). Officials plan to complete preliminary sign-ups at all state prisons by the end of next year.
About 900 inmates, mostly women, have been enrolled so far due to efforts by the state departments of Rehabilitation and Correction, Medicaid, and Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Medicaid is a federal-state program that helps pay for health care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled, and for low-income families with children.
Prisons chief Gary Mohr told the newspaper he thinks the program supports the state’s mission.
“I believe it will reduce the number of people returning to prison,” he said. “Our investment is in communities, not prison. I’m not going to build another damn prison.”
Many former prisoners have mental-health and addiction issues. They now immediately qualify for health care, mental-health services and prescription drugs after they are released.
Enrolling former prisoners in Medicaid will not result in specific savings, but it will reduce prison costs and avoid other costs related to mental-health and drug-addiction, Mohr and Medicaid Director John McCarthy said.
Prisons and addiction-treatment professionals also are working together to double the 4,600 inmates currently enrolled in addiction treatment while in prison. The rate of those who return to prison after receiving addiction treatment is less than half the rate for those who do not get treatment.
Gov. John Kasich expanded the Medicaid program to allow released inmates to enroll. Previously, only ex-offenders earning less than 90 percent of the federal poverty level and with dependent children qualified for Medicaid. Most of those were women.
Now, anyone earning less than 138 percent of the poverty level, regardless of parental status, qualifies.
“When a person comes out, we’re trying to set them up so they are in the best position possible to move forward,” McCarthy said. “Our goal is not have 21,000 people in Medicaid the rest of their lives.”