MONTGOMERY, Ala – On Thursday, the Alabama Senate approved a proposal by Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) to lift a significant financial burden off local sheriffs’ offices. 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 suspended.
However, since federal law also requires local jails and prisons to provide for an inmate’s mental and health care costs, local sheriffs are left picking up the entire tab for a prisoner’s medical costs.
“If the federal government is going to require local sheriffs to cover the entire cost of a prisoner’s medical costs, then the federal government should also pick up part of the tab, especially when a prisoner was on Medicaid before entering jail,” Ward said. “Under Senate Bill 54, counties will cover thirty percent of a prisoner’s medical costs, and Medicaid will cover the rest, if the prisoner was on Medicaid prior to entry.”
Senate Bill 54 should slow the revolving door of prisoners leaving jail only to commit a crime within a matter of weeks. Currently, once a person who was on Medicaid 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 should, at the margins, 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 course to pursue.”
Senate Bill 54 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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.