This second part of a three-part series on the findings of a study of programs designed to obtain Federal disability benefits for inmates as part of reentry planning addresses the likelihood of losing Medicaid benefits as a result of being jailed and the importance of having Medicaid benefits upon release.
Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that provides medical insurance to low-income people. It is jointly funded by Federal and State governments based on a formula that produces variation in Medicaid coverage across States. Most people qualify for Medicaid by qualifying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration. Most States terminate Medicaid eligibility for those who are incarcerated. A few States have procedures for ensuring that Medicaid benefits resume as soon as possible after release from incarceration. In examining the experiences of two jails in this regard--one in King County, WA, and the other in Pinellas County, FL--researchers found that jailed recipients of disability benefits were not incarcerated long enough to lose their SSI or Medicaid disability benefits. Virtually all of those with severe mental illness who were on Medicaid when they entered jail continued on it during incarceration and after release (approximately 65-78 percent in the two counties). Researchers also found that having Medicaid benefits at release helped offenders with severe mental illness avoid returning to jail in the year following release. These findings do not apply to those who are sent to prison, however, since prisons are long-stay institutions. All offenders who enter prison with Medicaid lose it before they are released. Ensuring that released prison inmates have Medicaid coverage for medical services, particularly mental health services, is critical for preventing their reoffending. 4 references and 2 resource listings
99-C-008 2002TO097 000
Date Published: June 1, 2007