California County Jails Work To Enroll Inmates in Health Coverage
County jails in California are working to enroll inmates in health coverage ahead of implementation of the Affordable Care Act, HealthyCal reports.
Currently, certain counties allow prisoners to sign up for the Low Income Health Program.
However, LIHP will end in 2014 when the ACA goes into full effect.
On Jan. 1, 2014, most LIHP beneficiaries will be eligible for Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Any beneficiaries who are not eligible for Medi-Cal can seek coverage through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange.
Details of Inmate Population
Incarcerated individuals tend to be younger and have poorer health than other state residents, according to HealthyCal.
In addition, a report by Community Oriented Correctional Health Services found that inmates are disproportionately:
- Persons of color; and
In addition, they are disproportionately affected by chronic medical conditions, according to the report.
It found that 80% of inmates with chronic health conditions had not received treatment prior to their arrest.
The report also found that about 90% of inmates do not have health coverage when they leave jail.
Examining Inmate Health Coverage
Enrolling inmates in health coverage likely will help them more after their release than while they are in jail, according to HealthyCal.
Prisoners can obtain federal funding for care through Medi-Cal, but only when receiving care for an acute in-patient condition at an off-site facility that is not associated with the jail.
Cathy Senderling-McDonald -- deputy executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California -- said that all inmates could be eligible for Medi-Cal, "but unless they are going off-site, nobody can actually claim funding from the government for health services."
However, inmates enrolled in health coverage while incarcerated will be immediately eligible for those benefits -- including substance misuse and mental health treatments -- once they are released.
Providing inmates with health coverage also can reduce county costs for uncompensated care when they are released, Senderling-McDonald added.
Counties that are enrolling inmates in LIHP say it is worth undergoing the complicated administrative process to reduce costs in the long run (Flynn, HealthyCal, 7/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.