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Affordable Care Act's Impact on Washington Jails and Prisons

With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, Washington jails and prisons are cutting their health care costs and setting up current inmates that are set to be released. The reason? Inmate’s health care coverage will kick into effect as soon as they’re released. In an agreement reached between the Washington State Department of CorrectionsHealth Care Authority and the state , inmates are now allowed to be pre-enrolled in Medicaid 30 days prior to release.

Other institutions taking part in pre-registration are Thurston and Spokane, with Clallam Skagit, Stevens and Clark county jails with pending agreements, as a community organization aiding the jail in Spokane County, according to Jim Stevenson, spokesman for the Health Care Authority.

According to an article in The Olympian, “As of April 16, the DOC had enrolled 754 inmates in Medicaid pending their release, according to data provided by the agency. Of those applications, 582 had already been approved, a DOC spokeswoman said.”

This push to pre-enroll inmates before their release is part of an effort to not only ensure a smoother re-entrance into the community, but to attempt to reduce criminal acts and repeat offending.

Also motivating these changes in practices are the money that jails and prisons will ultimately save should offenders return to jail. The continued treatment they will receive as free members of the community saves Washington’s corrections facilities in medical costs if they return because they’ve been receiving consistent treatment for pre-existing conditions.

King County is in the middle of similar talks that will allow them to assist in early enrollment of inmates but reached an agreement just yet, said James Apa, a Public Health spokesman from Seattle & King County.