Dec 9, 2010

Access to Medicaid for Individuals Leaving Prisons

This past Tuesday, the Upper Manhattan Reentry Task Force convened its Quarterly Meeting. The meeting focused on Medicaid access for individuals leaving prisons and featured NYC Human Resource Administration's Director of Eligibility Services, Maria Ortiz-Quezada.  To date, few New York State Correction facilities have received the training through the Human Resources Administration required to submit Medicaid applications directly from prison facilities. With no Medicaid access upon release, formerly incarcerated populations experience delays in accessing medical care,  prescription drugs,substance abuse treatment during the most crucial period of their reentry. This group is subject to disproportionate public health issues than the general population, including higher rates of childhood abuse, homelessness, HIV infection and other infectious or chronic diseases, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, and physical or sexual abuse. The barriers to rapid attachment to drug, mental health,and medical treatment represent a missed opportunity to immediately engage formerly incarcerated populations.

The good news is that at least a few correctional facilities, including Queensboro Correctional Facility, Arthur Kill, Bayview, and Rikers apply individuals for Medicaid prior to release. Anecdotally, the individuals that we receive into our programs from Queensboro and Bayview are able to access treatment immediately upon release.  However, because those individuals returning from upstate facilities can't apply until they begin programming here at the Justice Center, it often takes over a month or longer for them to receive substantive drug treatment or prescription coverage. One accommodation providers make to facilitate treatment is to allow individuals to do intake prior to receiving Medicaid coverage.  When Medicaid coverage begins, the client can begin counseling immediately.

As a result of bill signed into law by Spitzer in 2007, individuals who were receiving Medicaid prior to incarceration and who were incarcerated as of 4/08, have their Medicaid reactivated immediately upon release from prison. On a daily basis, Medicaid receives a list of released detainees/prisoners and automatically reactivates the case. If the case is not automatically reactivated, the individual can go to any local Medicaid office with a photo ID or release papers or call 1-800-505-5678.
and the case will be reactivated. If he/she was incarcerated prior to 4/08, he/she must reapply for Medicaid as if he/she had never applied before. The reapplication process will take at least 45 days.

As a general matter, NY State is one of the most generous states for Medicaid coverage as single individuals are covered through the S/CC (Single/Childless Couple) categorization so long as his/her income does not exceed $707.00.  However, if the applicant has children, they should make sure to apply under the LIF (Low Income Families) category, as it provides better access. Even if there is no entitlement to Medicaid, client may be eligible for Family Health Plus. For more information on Medicaid Eligibility,  you can click here or contact Ms. Quezada-Ortiz at