Bill would restore Medicaid benefits for inmates - and cut burden on local communities, sheriffs say

A bill backed by a Dayton congressman and area law enforcement aims to remove the Medicaid benefits restriction for inmates, which officials said is unfair for those incarcerated before their trials and those who need continued treatments.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) and other representatives in Congress reintroduced the Due Process Continuity of Care Act earlier this month. The bill would amend a portion of the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP), which denies Medicaid coverage to eligible individuals being detained pre-trial.

“Currently, if you have Medicaid benefits and you’re incarcerated, even pre-trial where you’ve been convicted of nothing, you lose your medical care benefits,” Turner said. “This becomes not only a financial burden on communities, but it also disrupts any care that the individuals are receiving.”

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said the removal of Medicaid benefits, especially for those awaiting trial, puts costs back on the county.

“They’re presumed innocent until proven guilty, but they come to our jail, and they lose those benefits,” he said. “This causes the counties or the sheriff’s offices to pick up the bill for that.”

Turner, along with Streck and Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett, discussed the legislation at a press conference on Tuesday morning at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office road patrol division on Infirmary Road in Dayton.

Turner said the current federal policy is harmful not only to people entering incarceration and law enforcement employees, but also the greater community.

“Certainly as we know with opioid addiction, it is so important for people who are receiving treatment to have continuity of care. A disruption in service and perhaps a relapse can result in losing them to our community and their families,” he said.

Montgomery County Jail has seen five inmate deaths since the start of the year — which equals the total from 2021 and 2022 combined. A few of these deaths were a result of drug intoxication, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Turner said the bill could add to overdose prevention efforts if passed.

“One of the many things we’re seeing in the problem of addiction is that eventually, many of those people find themselves facing law enforcement and perhaps even incarceration,” he said. “This gives us a tremendous opportunity as a community for intervention.”

Sheriffs of Clark and Montgomery counties voiced approval of the legislation. Both voiced that roughly half of their jail populations face a mental health or substance use disorder of some kind.

Streck said the sheriff’s office is working with the “most physically ill, mentally ill and addicted” population it has ever seen. Streck said that the need for mental health and addiction services for inmates is vast. The Montgomery County Jail has upped its medical and mental health services contract from $3.7 million to $7 million since 2019.

“This is straining many of our local jails’ budgets,” said Streck. “And like many jails across the country, Montgomery County has seen a significant increase in people incarcerated with severe medical issues.”

Not only do many inmates have mental health and substance use health care needs, but also cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and endocrine issues are significantly higher than ever before due to the substance abuse crisis, Streck said.

Burchett echoed this, saying the disruption in care has also resulted in deputies working with more violent inmates.

“Every day, we’re dealing with violence in our jails that we have never dealt with before,” she said. “But that’s basically because of the fact that we don’t get their medicine to them as quickly as we possibly could if they were still on Medicaid.”

The bill also authorizes $50 million in planning grant dollars for the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary to give to states to provide additional support to states, counties and local jails for implementing the updated policy, improving the quality of care provided in jails, and enhancing the number of available providers to treat inmates.

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