Senators Markey, Brown and Rep. Scott Reintroduce Legislation to Help More Quickly Connect Justice-Involved Populations to Health Care Coverage

July 25, 2019
Press Release
Nearly 85 percent of U.S. prisoners either have a prior or present substance use disorder or committed a crime related to substance use

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, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) reintroduced the Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act. This legislation would prohibit states from terminating an inmate’s Medicaid coverage while they are incarcerated, a practice that often prevents individuals from accessing treatment in the critical days and weeks after release. Instead, states would be required to suspend Medicaid coverage, ensuring access to health care services more quickly upon release. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia routinely terminate coverage for a Medicaid patient upon incarceration or detention. The result of termination is that upon discharge, individuals need to reapply for Medicaid in order to access health care services – a process that may take up to 45 to 90 days.

“The time immediately after re-entry is the most precarious and dangerous for formerly incarcerated individuals with a substance use disorder, and we should be using all of the tools at our disposal to connect them to care and treatment as quickly as possible,” said Senator Markey. “Congress took an important step last year to help connect justice-involved youth to health care coverage upon returning to the community. We need to finish the job we started by requiring states to suspend and not terminate Medicaid coverage for all eligible individuals. I look forward to working with my colleagues to help make access to care easier, no matter where they live, and to help save lives.”

“Everyone should have a right to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Senator Brown. “Making sure people have the tools they need to stay healthy will help them get back on their feet, hold down jobs and contribute to their communities.”                                                                                                                                           

“The re-entry period is a very uncertain time in formerly incarcerated people’s lives and evidence shows that access to health care for individuals reduces recidivism,” said Congressman Scott. “This bill will ensure they have access to the supports they need to put them on the right path. I look forward to partnering with Senators Markey and Brown on getting this bicameral legislation passed through both chambers of Congress.”

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

The Supporting Positive Outcomes after Release Act would build upon progress made in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (Public Law No: 115-271) that now requires states to suspend, rather than terminate, Medicaid coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries up to the age of 21. It would expand this bipartisan policy by applying it to all adult Medicaid beneficiaries.

“This legislation will help ensure successful reentry into the community for people who have served their debt to society,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It provides for timely access to critical prevention, treatment and behavioral health services through the Medicaid program. The legislation also enables a sensible approach that avoids unnecessary barriers to reinstatement of health benefits for eligible beneficiaries. Access to needed health services will help these individuals live healthier and more productive lives after their release.”

“The majority of individuals involved in the criminal justice system suffer from substance use disorders, have a self-reported history of mental illness or both,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “The Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act will have a profound impact on our ability to improve the delivery of health care for these individuals after returning home, ensuring they have access to the treatment they need and reducing future incidents of crime.”

The legislation is supported by the American Public Health Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Council for Behavioral Health, Drug Policy Alliance, Center for Law and Social Policy, and Families USA.