Oh, Good: Exiting Inmates in Kentucky Receive Coverage Under Obamacare Upon Release

Daniel Doherty

4/7/2014 8:35:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

Well, that’s certainly one way to boost enrollment numbers (via Jazz Shaw):

After three months in jail on a theft charge, Vincent Garcia had prepared last week to collect his wallet and keys and turn in his orange scrubs upon release.

But the 26-year-old will leave jail with something else — free health insurance.

Louisville Metro Department of Corrections last week began holding daily sign-ups for exiting inmates, and Garcia was among those qualifying for the newly expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"This is yet another disturbing aspect of a profoundly troubling piece of legislation," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said about the controversial policy, according to USA Today. Supporters of this experiment, however, argue that dumping ex-prisoners onto Medicaid is actually a good thing: it will help defray state costs and reduce recidivism rates as those suffering from addiction and other health-related problems will continue to receive treatment. Still, many law-abiding Americans cannot afford health insurance, so the idea of rewarding criminals with “free” insurance so soon after leaving prison might not go over so well. Nevertheless, if all goes well (and even if it doesn’t), the practice is expected to be expanded to other county prisons around the state:

Barbara Gordon, of the Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency, which is providing "kynectors" to help people sign up in the Louisville region, is partnering with the jail as an "experiment, and we do plan to expand it" to other jails in the 16-county area they cover or other parts of the state, she said. There is no specific enrollment goal.

Nationally, at least 70% of the roughly 10 million people released from prison or jail each year are uninsured, according to the Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Medicaid is costly and not working terribly well. Swelling its rolls with new enrollees, especially when they aren’t paying into the system, is going to be a problem.