In January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved a first-of-its-kind waiver allowing California’s Medicaid program to pay for health care services for justice-involved individuals before they are released from state prisons, county jails, and youth correctional facilities. This historic approval partly waives the federal Medicaid inmate exclusion policy, allowing transitional care services for youth and Medicaid-eligible adults with chronic medical or behavioral health needs up to 90 days prior to release. This opportunity has the potential to improve health care access and outcomes for people who are incarcerated, who disproportionately experience significant medical, behavioral health, and social needs, yet historically have not been connected to needed services upon reentry to the community. While CMS guidance is forthcoming, stakeholders in California and nationally are eager to identify how to maximize this new potential coverage option to advance equitable health coverage for this population.
This virtual panel, cohosted by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) and the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center), explored this new opportunity to improve access to care and services for people returning to the community from jails and prisons, including impacts to both Medicaid and criminal-legal systems. National and California stakeholders discussed implications of the new waiver authority, including what it means for people who are incarcerated; ways to improve coordination and continuity of care across sectors; and strategies for policymakers in other states to shape future opportunities.
I. Welcome and Opening Remarks
Speaker: Allison Hamblin, MSPH, President and CEO, CHCS and Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, PhD, Behavioral Health Division Director, CSG Justice Center
A. Hamblin welcomed participants and provided an overview of the webinar. A. Delany-Brumsey will provide brief remarks on this historic opportunity to expand health access for individuals entering the community from the corrections system.
II. Health Care Access for the Reentry Population: Current Landscape and New Opportunities
Speakers: Liz Buck, MPA, Senior Program Officer, CHCS
L. Buck described the current environment for health care coverage for the reentry population and outlined state and federal progress in promoting new opportunities to provide pre-release services for individuals reentering the community from the corrections system.
III. Panel: Making the Most of New Health Coverage Opportunities for the Reentry Population
Moderator: Allison Hamblin, CHCS
A. Hamblin facilitated a panel discussion focused on the opportunities presented within this new waiver for pre-release services in California and also explored the implications for other states interested in developing similar services under Medicaid.
- Ayesha Delany-Brumsey, PhD, Behavioral Health Division Director, CSG Justice Center
- Vikki Wachino, MPP, Executive Director, Health and Reentry Project
- Autumn Boylan, MPH, Deputy Director, Office of Strategic Partnerships, California Department of Health Care Services
- Brenda Grealish, MA, Executive Officer, Council on Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation