The incarcerated population faces numerous health challenges (see, e.g., http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-soc-073014-112326). A PHS 795 student draws our attention to a helpful overview of the role of Medicaid in caring for this population. They write:
Because incarcerated populations are so isolated from the general population, they are often overlooked in conversation. Given that incarceration rates are at an all time high and that incarcerated populations are particularly vulnerable to health disparities, I think it is important to understand how states are addressing their health management. Medicaid plays an important role in financing health care for criminal justice system involved individuals, a population with significantly lower socioeconomic status and disproportionately burdened by multiple health problems. Although very dense, this article discusses the guidelines for Medicaid spending on incarcerated individuals following introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
The expansion of coverage for criminal justice involved individuals has many benefits, as discussed in this article. This article brought to my attention the unique opportunity incarceration presents to effectively treat inmates for various health conditions. Treating them during incarceration decreases the chance of transmission of infectious diseases after release, decreases the risk of re-incarceration if mental health improves, decreases hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and lowers health care spending. It will be interesting to see how Medicaid funds are allocated to incarcerated populations and how total spending for this population changes over time if the ACA remains in effect for much longer.