MONTGOMERY, Ala – On Tuesday, the Alabama Senate gave final approval to a proposal by Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and Representative Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) to lift a significant financial burden off local governments. Currently, when a person who is on Medicaid – a federally-mandated health insurance program for low-income and disabled persons – is arrested for a crime, their Medicaid benefits are immediately terminated.
However, federal law requires local jails and prisons to pay for all of an inmate’s mental and health care costs. Local sheriffs and city jails are therefore left picking up the entire tab for a prisoner’s medical costs, since the inmate’s Medicaid benefits have been terminated.
House Bill 211 reduces the inmate healthcare burden on cities and counties: going forward, local governments will be responsible for covering 30% of a prisoner’s healthcare costs, and the federal government will cover the remaining costs via Medicaid.
“By making this small change, we guarantee that city and county governments will save valuable money when taking care of prisoners,” remarked Senator Ward.
Ward’s proposal should slow the revolving door of prisoners leaving jail only to commit a crime within a matter of weeks. Currently, once a person exits prison to re-enter society, they are left in “no man’s land,” without Medicaid or any other type of health insurance. These former inmates, who often have mental illnesses, frequently pursue destructive and criminal behavior, absent the help of psychological counseling and medication.
“This proposal will help reduce recidivism and make our communities safer,” Ward observed. “After listening to my local sheriffs from Shelby, Dale, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson counties, I am convinced this is the right action to take.”
House Bill 211 now goes to Governor Kay Ivey for signature before it becomes law.
Republican Senator Cam Ward represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson Counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.