Medicaid health-care benefits for eligible persons incarcerated in county jails are terminated after 30 days, rather than merely suspended as in many states. To further complicate its shortcomings, the policy depends on time spent in jail, not whether the inmates are acquitted or convicted.
Suspension, rather than termination, of Medicaid benefits allows eligible former inmates to more easily obtain medical care with Harris Health and other local health-care providers upon their release. Under current state practices, once an inmate's Medicaid is cancelled, they are forced to navigate a bureaucratic labyrinth in order to renew their medical benefit.
Legislation proposed in this 84th Texas legislative session would change the policy to suspension rather than termination. This could have a considerable impact on the treatment of indigent individuals in the custody of the county jail, where a quarter of the inmates receive medicine for psychiatric illness and others suffer from a myriad of additional disorders. When released, these individuals have little access to the care and medication needed to stay as healthy as they were during their time in jail.
By placing limitations on their easy access to affordable care, the state of Texas is all but ensuring a quick return to jail for individuals suffering from mental illness. Simply put, access to care reduces recidivism.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office is responsible for the medical care, custody and control of the approximately 8,500 inmates. This medical care - a constitutional obligation - is provided as part of the sheriff's budget to operate the county jail system.
The burden is further passed to the taxpayers of Harris County who pay into the Medicaid program via federal income taxes and then pay to support Harris Health's budget when otherwise uninsured patients come through their doors.
Monday, March 09, 2015
Sheriff: Suspend, don't terminate Medicaid benefits during local jail incarceration
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and George Masi, CEO of Harrs Health Sytems authord an op ed in the Houston Chronicle (March 6) calling for the state to suspend rather than terminate Medicaid benefits when recipients are incarcerated in the county jail for 30 days. Here's a notable excerpt: