CMS allows California prison inmates to receive Medicaid care

CMS will allow Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Plan funds to treat people in prisons, jails and youth correctional facilities for the first time ever in California.

The move will provide a set of critical pre-release services and improve access to needed care for people returning home from jails and prisons, according to the agency.

For example, Medi-Cal will be able to cover behavioral health services and substance-use treatment before an incarcerated Medicaid beneficiary is released. The state will also be able to help connect the individual to community-based Medicaid providers 90 days before their release to ensure they can continue treatment after returning to the community.

"This is the first time in history Medicaid will be providing coverage to justice-involved individuals before they're released," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a Jan. 26 news release. "It is a step forward in closing gaps in services this underserved community experiences, and I encourage other states to follow California's lead."

As part of the plan, California will increase provider and Medicaid managed care payments in obstetrics, primary care and behavioral health as a condition to receive Designated State Health Program funding. 

In obstetrics alone, CMS said the move has the potential for $60 million to be invested in the health of pregnant and postpartum women by expanding access to providers and improving outcomes for pregnant women. 

"This demonstration allows us to make historic changes for incarcerated individuals who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP," CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said. "By helping these individuals access essential services and care coordination prior to release, we will also prevent gaps in care as they rejoin their communities."

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