Advocates hope that enrolling thousands of ex-offenders in Medicaid under Obamacare can reduce recidivism and save incarceration costs. “This is a huge opportunity,” Kamala Mallik-Kane, who studies correctional systems, inmates, and health policy at the Urban Institute, told Cara Tabachnick, Deputy Director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice, who wrote about this topic for the Christian Science Monitor. “The unprecedented step of connecting these newly eligible people to health insurance has incredible potential to change the trajectory of inmates to reintegrate back into society and not back into the justice system,” said Mallik-Kane.
Many experts, however, are wary of the notion that health reform and access to Medicaid for formerly imprisoned men can truly transform the criminal-justice system. “Medicaid enrollment for inmates is not the silver bullet,” says Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank and director of its Center for Medical Progress. He suggests that Medicaid, a $265 billion federal expenditure last year, is not yielding adequate results for the cost and that it’s time to take “a long and hard look” before expanding it to serve even more people. “Extending those benefits to a historically transient and difficult population with a whole host of social-issues challenges will not change their approach to health care or [their] behaviors,” he warns.
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The Center on Media, Crime and Justice, established at John Jay College in 2006, is the nation’s only practice- and research-oriented think tank devoted to encouraging and developing high-quality reporting on criminal justice and to promoting better-informed public debate on the complex 21st century challenges of law enforcement, public security and justice in a globalized urban society. For more information, visit http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/cmcj or www.thecrimereport.org