Turn On Care!
To Connect New Yorkers in Reentry to Coordinated Care and Foster Healthier Communities for All
New York State’s Department of Health (NYS DOH) is in the process of submitting an amendment to its 1115 Medicaid Waiver to request activation of Medicaid for incarcerated individuals 30 days prior to their discharge from prisons (and for a 30-day period as needed in jails). The amendment would require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to waive the federal ‘Inmate Exclusion’ policy, which currently prohibits using Medicaid dollars for anyone who is incarcerated. Successful passage would make New York the first state in the country to use Medicaid ‘inside the walls’ and a leader for the nation on policy innovation that could substantially improve both health and criminal justice outcomes.
As Legal Action Center explains in our “Health and Justice: Bridging the Gap” report that gleans lessons from New York’s recent efforts to improve the linkage between correctional and community health care, a major barrier to this effort succeeding is the fact that, because incarcerated individuals automatically lose health insurance coverage upon entering jail or prison, community health providers are unable to do ‘in-reach’ to transition care before the individual leaves incarceration. This means that most people with chronic and life-threatening illnesses are leaving jails and prisons without any transition in their health care. Often, they do not have their necessary medications or any plans for treatment in place. The impact of this is devastating evidenced by staggering levels of mortality for individuals in the first two weeks after leaving jail or prison.
Overall, people are 12 times more likely to die from all causes in the first two weeks after release - and the rates of death from opioid overdose are 130 times greater compared to the general population.
Clearly, we need a change.
LAC submitted comments to the NYS DOH on the initial draft amendment application in May 2019, which can be viewed here, as well as on the subsequent draft during the public comment period in September 2019, which can be viewed here. We will be watching the submission process closely and advocating to push this important policy change forward. Below you can find more information on the effort including a timeline of LAC’s involvement. Be sure to visit this page periodically and watch the hashtag #TurnOnCareNY to keep up to date on our campaign.
To learn more about NY’s effort to support healthy reentry:
Read the New York State Department of Health’s press release “Governor Cuomo Directs Department of Health to Apply for Federal Waiver to Provide Medicaid Services to Incarcerated Individuals Leaving Prisons and Jails”.
View the NYS DOH’s application here. (This application has not yet been submitted to CMS and was open for public comment for 30 days starting August 14, 2019.)
Visit the CMS website with waiver application status details. (NYS DOH has not yet submitted the application to CMS.)
Read this op-ed by Tracie Gardner, LAC’s Vice President of Policy Advocacy, and Shelly Weizman, Associate Director of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at Georgetown Law School, (both of whom formerly served as Assistant Secretary for Mental Hygiene for New York State), which discusses how this effort sets a precedent for health and criminal justice reform nationwide.
Read this Q+A on NY’s waiver application with Tracie Gardner in The Appeal.
Watch a recording of the webinar LAC co-hosted with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice - “Turn On Care! A National Strategy Discussion on NY’s Application to Waive the Medicaid ‘Inmate’ Exclusion Provision.” You can also download the presentation slides here.
You can also review this document on State Policy and Practice Innovations to better help the criminal justice and health systems work together to improve health care access to justice-involved people nationwide.