ObamaCare to shift costs of some prisoner health coverage from states to feds

October 9, 2013

ObamaCare may have its skeptics, but one group is decidedly optimistic — prison inmates.

“At least 50 percent of the [prison] population has symptoms of mental health disorders,” said Brad Brockmann, executive director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University. “With Medicaid expansion, we have an incredible opportunity to take care of the very neediest, the very poorest while freeing up huge amounts of money within the states through not having to provide that care in correctional settings.”

The Eighth Amendment guarantees adequate medical care for prisoners — often an expensive undertaking because many battle addiction and have serious mental health issues. Currently, counties and states pay for that care. But in January, when the Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid coverage to men living below the poverty line, the cost of this care shifts to the feds.

“That’s one of the reason why you’re seeing a lot of Republican governors support the Medicaid expansion because for them, it’s a fiscal windfall,” said Avik Roy, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “They will be able to offload these costs to the federal government that currently they’re paying for.”

State and county prisoners who need acute care outside a prison facility can also have that cost reimbursed by Medicaid.

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