Senator Booker Says Prisoners Should Be Able To Access Medicaid

Booker, Kuster, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to End Outdated Policy that Prevents Incarcerated Individuals from Accessing Medicaid

Booker and Kuster first introduced the legislation in 2019


Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Humane Correctional Health Care Act. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), a founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force and member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and a bipartisan group of Members introduced companion legislation in the House.

This bill would repeal the so-called Medicaid Inmate Exclusion (MIE), which strips health coverage from Medicaid enrollees who are involved in the criminal justice system, decreasing access to care and shifting that cost burden to states and counties instead. This legislation would increase the justice-involved population’s access to quality coverage and care needed to help them successfully return to their communities — including treatment for mental health and substance use disorders — and save state and taxpayer dollars.

“Every day, millions of people who become involved in the justice system are barred from receiving Medicaid benefits and are unable to access adequate health care,” said Senator Booker. “This exclusion policy hurts the justice-involved population at a time when they are most in need of affordable, comprehensive health coverage, especially when a significant percentage live with serious health issues such as mental illness or substance use disorder. I’m pleased to join Rep. Kuster in reintroducing this critical legislation that will  increase access to coverage and care by ending the draconian prohibition of Medicaid coverage for incarcerated individuals.”

“The Medicaid Inmate Exclusion (MIE) is an outdated, flawed policy which contributes to a vicious cycle of addiction, incarceration, and recidivism that devastates families and communities, and drains state and local budgets while harming public health and our economy,” Congresswoman Kuster said. “The Humane Correctional Health Care Act would help break the cycle by investing in adequate treatment and ensuring individuals who are involved in the justice system have the opportunity to heal, recover, and make valuable contributions to our communities. States should not be on the hook for billions in health care spending on incarcerated Americans who should have Medicaid coverage. I’m pleased to reintroduce this bipartisan, common-sense measure alongside my Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force co-chair, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, and I urge leadership in both the Senate and the House to consider this legislation.”

“Millions of Americans struggle every day with mental health and substance use disorders. As co-chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, I believe in supporting the wellbeing of every American citizen, including those currently in the criminal justice system,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to cosponsor the Humane Correctional Health Care Act, which will help save lives and empower struggling individuals to get the support they need.”

“Millions of Americans struggle every day with substance use disorder, including those in the criminal justice system,” said Rep. McKinley. “The Humane Correctional Health Care Act would ensure individuals transitioning back to society can access the treatment they need to break the cycle addiction. This will save lives and save money.”

Many of those who are justice-involved have significant health needs. Approximately 60 percent of people in U.S prisons and jails meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD), and about 40 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Yet, very few incarcerated individuals receive adequate treatment to manage their conditions. Since the establishment of the Medicaid program in 1965, the United States prison population has grown by 650 percent: from approximately 200,000 to 1.5 million. This growth has contributed to a health care crisis that has strained the resources of states and counties, with states spending approximately $8.5 billion on poor and insufficient health care in 2016 alone.

By repealing the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion, the Humane Correctional Health Care Act would not only increase the justice-involved population’s access to quality coverage and care – it would also help reduce recidivism and result in states saving taxpayer money on the health care of justice-involved individuals, including millions of dollars that can be used to provide community-based treatment.

The legislative text of the Humane Correctional Health Care Act, is available here.