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The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Public Safety and Corrections Populations

September 10, 2012
Susan D. Phillips
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law by President Obama in 2011, may potentially aid individuals who are at risk for incarceration and those who have been incarcerated through provisions that allow states to expand eligibility for Medicaid.

Many people in correctional institutions have faced barriers obtaining needed health and behavioral health care services in the community either prior to their incarceration or upon reentry following incarceration. This is largely due to high rates of unemployment and narrow Medicaid eligibility criteria.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law by President Obama in 2011, may potentially aid individuals who are at risk for incarceration and those who have been incarcerated through provisions that allow states to expand eligibility for Medicaid.

This report documents that federal heath care reform legislation could change the playing field in three key ways:

  • Expanded health care coverage: The Affordable Care Act gives states the option of expanding Medicaid eligibility and makes prevention, early intervention, and treatment of mental health problems and substance use essential health benefits. In states that opt to expand Medicaid coverage, the Federal government will cover 100% of expenditures for the newly eligible population from 2014 to 2016, with the amount of federal funds decreasing yearly to 90% by 2020 and thereafter.
  • Reducing recidivism: Because of the role mental health and substance abuse problems play in behaviors that lead to incarceration and recidivism, the Affordable Care Act could help states reduce the number of people cycling through the criminal justice system.
  • Addressing racial disparities: The new legislation may contribute to reducing racial disparities in incarceration that arise from disparate access to treatment.

To read the report, download the PDF below.

 
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