Funder: Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS)

Author: Stephen A. Somers, Allison Hamblin, Shannon McMahon, Christian Heiss, Center for Health Care Strategies; Elena Nicolella, Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services; and Bradley W. Brockmann, Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Miriam Hospital and Brown University School of Public Health, in Providence, Rhode Island

March 2014 | Journal Article


The expansion of Medicaid eligibility to Americans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level should greatly increase access to coverage and services for people recently released from jail and, thus, improve health outcomes and reduce recidivism in this population. 

The population is disproportionately male, minority, and poor; suffers from high rates of mental and substance abuse disorders; and will most likely make up a substantial portion of the Medicaid expansion population. In an article in Health Affairs’ March 2014 issue, CHCS authors, together with experts from Rhode Island, outline strategies for states to meet the needs of this newly eligible population. “Medicaid Expansion: Considerations for States Regarding Newly Eligible Jail-Involved Individuals” examines the opportunity to make sure that jailed individuals are enrolled in health coverage and have a bridge to health care services upon release.

To ensure connections to needed services after release from jail, states could help inmates determine their eligibility and enroll in Medicaid; take advantage of federal grants to automate systems that determine eligibility; and include a robust array of behavioral health services in Medicaid benefit packages. In most states, new partnerships between Medicaid and corrections agencies will be necessary at both the state and local levels to support these activities. Addressing these issues can help improve health, reduce recidivism, and lower costs to state and local governments.