Rep. Scott and Senator Markey Introduce Legislation to Help Expand Access to Health Care, Including Opioid Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Services

September 14, 2018
Press Release
Bill would help individuals recently released from the criminal justice system expeditiously access Medicaid coverage

WASHINGTON, DC – Within the first two weeks of re-entry, individuals released from correctional facilities are 129 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than the general population. To help ensure that individuals can access the care they need, Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act, legislation that prohibits states from terminating an inmates’ Medicaid coverage while they are incarcerated, a practice that often prevents individuals from accessing treatment in the critical days and weeks after release. The legislation would prohibit states from terminating eligible individual’s Medicaid because of incarceration, and instead, with coverage only temporarily suspended, ensure access to health care services more quickly upon release.

“Evidence shows that access to health care for individuals re-entering society can reduce recidivism,” said Rep. Scott. “This legislation will ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals have access to the supports they need to put them on the right path.”

“We know that connecting vulnerable populations to health care, and especially substance use treatment, can save money and lives,” said Senator Markey. “As we work to address this nation’s opioid crisis and right the wrongs of the failed War on Drugs, we must do more to remove barriers to care, including for those who have been incarcerated. My legislation will help bridge the precarious time after release by ensuring Medicaid-eligible individuals can access their benefits as soon as possible. As the nation debates the need for criminal justice reform, we must address the need to make access to substance use treatment easier, not harder.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

Nearly 85 percent of prisoners in the United States either have a prior or present substance use disorder or committed a crime that was related to substance use. When many of these individuals return to the community after incarceration, their health care needs are great, but their ability to access coverage is typically poor because many states cancel Medicaid coverage for this population. As of 2016, only 16 states and the District of Columbia suspended Medicaid coverage for inmates during incarceration. 

The legislation is endorsed by the National Council for Behavioral Health, American Public Health Association, Families USA, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and Drug Policy Alliance.