The U.S. congress is threatening to abolish the Affordable Care Act, as Maryland officials are stepping up their game, by adding ex-offenders to the government health insurance rolls.
The state Department Public Safety and Correctional Services are helping to enroll about 150 people in Medicaid, the state and federal health insurance plan for the low-income.
The federal government has permitted Maryland to assume everyone in the correctional system is eligible for Medicaid. In July, officials will be able to work more efficiently and quicker, enrolling the ex-offenders as they are released from prison or jail.
The ex-offenders have a high rate of chronic disease and addiction, with no means to get treatment. Maryland, along with a small number of states, is taking more aggressive steps to make health insurance more accessible to ex-offenders. However, Maryland is the only state to offer everyone so-called presumptive eligibility.
The insurance is only temporary, but provides instant coverage. It is often utilized to insure pregnant women have access to hospital care. Healthcare providers will step up to help patients in pursuing continuing enrolling.
Advocates and observes say the move could lead to reduced recidivism and healthier communities. State officials have not mentioned a backup plan, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
The opioid overdose crisis had become a hot topic in the United States. Maryland has seen a spike in overdose from opioids, which spurred health officials to seek federal approval to offer Medicaid eligibility to ex-offenders, who have a high rate of addiction.
There are currently 1.2 million Marylanders enrolled in Medicaid. Correctional officials have joined forces with the federal Social Security Administration and Motor Vehicle Administration to obtain more offenders official identification. Not having access to this information has created barriers to enrollment.
According to a study in California, about two-thirds of the people leaving the state’s system qualified for Medicaid. As of now, the federal government pays the bulk of the $2.6 billion in Medicaid expansion costs in the state. The remainder, $10.2 billion budget is split between the state and federal governments. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act would cost Maryland around $2 billion in Medicaid funding in the next fiscal year.
“We are arresting a lot of people for symptoms of behavioral health issues,” Rosenberg said. “It’s costly. Now we can say, hey we’ve seen you four times in the last several months but you’re eligible for Medicaid and treatment, do you want to go?”
Officials are concerned that ex-offenders may not accept Medicaid, even if the paperwork problem is eliminated. Many of them may fear being connected to past debts, such as child support payments.