Chandra Bozelko writes on Medicaid coverage for incarcerated individuals

March 7, 2024

Chandra Bozelko (Leading with Conviction™ 2018) writes at The National Memo:

“Under the approved new demonstration projects, both of which will commence at some time in 2024 in California and Washington, the only two states approved for the waiver so far, Medicaid coverage will be available for eligible incarcerated individuals in jails, courthouses, prisons, juvenile and community residential centers.

“Eligible inmates — those with behavioral health needs, including mental health disorders, substance use disorder, certain other health conditions, and incarcerated youth — will receive Medicaid coverage for a period of up to 90 days immediately before their release. They receive a targeted benefit package that will include case management services (securing appointments on the outside) medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse disorders while they are still awaiting release, a 30-day supply of medications upon release, and certain other supportive services.

“Allowing Medicaid to cover detainees for 90 days before departure is an especially compelling prospect.

An unprecedented development in correctional healthcare

“For years, the average jail stay was around 33 days, according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. This length of stay stays well within the 90-day limitation in the demonstration project rules allowing them to get coverage upon admission.

“Recently, a study of three specific jails indicated that the average jail stay may be rising. In 2019, those charged with violent crimes who were admitted to the Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky Jail, the St. Louis County, Missouri Jail or the Durham County, North Carolina Jail spent, on average, more than 100 days in custody, as compared to fewer than 40 days for a nonviolent felony and fewer than nine days for a misdemeanor.

“Waiting longer than 90 days for the resolution of one’s charges doesn’t necessarily make a jail detainee ineligible for coverage. When someone is not yet sentenced and awaiting determination of the date they will leave — either to go home or to state prison — they still may be within 90 days of their release from the facility.

“Theoretically, any unsentenced detainee in a jail is within 90 days of release because so much about their length of confinement remains unknown. …

“The 1115 Waiver Demonstration Projects may enable entire jail populations to be covered by Medicaid, an unprecedented development in correctional healthcare.”

Read the full story at

(Photo above by Arnold Gold / Journal Register Co.)

Your donation to JLUSA empowers directly impacted people.

Thank you so much for supporting our mission here at JLUSA! Your donation helps to support our network of leaders working to dismantle oppressive systems and uplift people and families impacted by mass incarceration across the country.

All charitable donations made to JLUSA are fully tax deductible, as allowable by the IRS.