On Thursday, March 30, Members of Congress introduced the Reentry Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow states to restore access to Medicaid coverage for justice-invovled individuals 30 days before release from jail and prison.
Studies have found that individuals with a substance use disorder returning from incarceration to the community are up to 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose during the first two weeks of reentry. This bipartisan legislation provides critical access to health care services to individuals 30 days prior to release and will support states by promoting seamless access to treatment services for individuals with substsnace use disorders as they prepare to reenter the community.
Currently, states have the option to suspend or terminate Medicaid coverage when individuals are incarcerated in jail or prison. In “suspension states,” coverage is either suspended upon incarceration and reactivated during release or is maintained but with limited allowable services. Terminating Medicaid requires individuals to reapply only once they are released. Terminating Medicaid upon incarceration can lead to extended lapses in health care coverage when individuals try to reapply during release, creating additional barriers to accessing medical services and treatments. For individuals with substance use disorder, this gap in health care coverage can have serious consequences, resulting in individuals remaining untreated and returning to the community without proper medical care or support services, which is a risk factor for increased recidivism rates, continued substance use, and overdose death.
In the House, the Reentry Act lead sponsors include Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), Mike Turner (R-OH-10), John Rutherford (R-FL-05), and David Trone (D-MD-06). In the Senate, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced the companion legislation.