Officials in the Iowa Department of Human Services are working to prevent some of the folks who’re on Medicaid from losing their benefits if they’re sent to jail.
Right now, when someone on Medicaid goes to jail, their benefits are terminated. The county covers their medical bills during lock up, but when they get out they have to reapply for Medicaid benefits. Ann Weibers of the Iowa Department of Human Services says mental health advocates say it’s a dangerous cycle for some people who are taking medications.
“What we heard from the advocates was a concern that people were leaving jail and not regaining their Medicaid and then not getting prescriptions filled, not getting back on medications and then reoffending and then going back into jail,” Weibers says.
Weibers says helping mentally troubled individuals get their meds so they don’t commit another crime is cheaper for the state.
“It’s cheaper than incarceration, absolutely, and it also helps the individual,” she says. “I think we all have the same goals of helping people get the help that they need, especially when they’re dealing with mental health issues.”
Last spring, the governor and state legislators agreed to suspend some Medicaid eligibility for up to a year while a person was incarcerated, so they don’t have to reapply when released from jail. Weibers says the legislation only covered the elderly and the disabled, but federal authorities require the state to provide the same benefit to pregnant women and minors.
“These are people who are already eligible for Medicaid when they go in,” Wiebers says, “…so what this will do is it reduces the paperwork that has to happen between the person leaving jail and DHS.”
The new rule should be in affect by the end of the year.