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Tonko-Baldwin Medicaid Reentry Act Added to E&C Reconciliation

Bipartisan legislation enables states to restore Medicaid services for inmates 30 days before their release

  • Rep. Paul Tonko

WASHINGTON—Congressman Paul D. Tonko heralded news that his bipartisan Medicaid Reentry Act has been incorporated into the House Committee on Energy & Commerce budget reconciliation proposal. This legislation empowers states to restore access to addiction treatment through Medicaid for incarcerated individuals up to 30 days before their release and is sponsored by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in the Senate with lead co-sponsors Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH), David Trone (D-MD) and David McKinley (R-WV) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN). The bill responds in part to alarming data that show individuals released from incarceration are 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose during the first two weeks after release.

“As we continue to grapple with scary new developments in the global COVID-19 pandemic, we must be even more vigilant in our fight against the nation’s opioid crisis,” Congressman Tonko said. “My Medicaid Reentry Act takes swift needed action to combat the spread of addiction and target treatment to the people who face the most immediate danger. Empowering states to use the best tools available to close the deadly treatment gap gives us our best chance to save lives and stop this crisis.

“The opioid and substance use disorder epidemic remains rampant in Wisconsin and across the country, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is dramatically impacting the addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery landscape in this country. This problem is harshly affecting incarcerated individuals who are working to reenter society, but currently lack the health care coverage they need to continue their recovery,” said Senator Baldwin. “We need to make sure these rehabilitated folks have Medicaid or other health care coverage needed to seamlessly transition back to community care, and reduce the risk of overdose deaths post-release. I’m proud to work with my Senate and House colleagues on this bipartisan reform to address our nation’s addiction crisis and support our continued fight against this deadly epidemic.”

“With COVID-19 and opioid related deaths on the rise, reintroducing the Medicaid Reentry Act couldn’t come at a more critical time. This legislation will provide a vital pathway to addiction treatment for incarcerated individuals who are at grave risk of dying from an opioid overdose following their release,” said Congressman Turner. “After many years of advocating to address this serious issue, I appreciate Congressman Tonko's leadership, and I am proud to join him in this bipartisan effort which will work towards combatting the deadly opioid epidemic.”

“America’s opioid epidemic is still raging,” Tonko added. “Taking swift, bold action now will make our communities safer, reduce the burden on public services over the long term and target life-saving services to the people and families who are most at risk. We have never faced a more urgent moment to advance the Medicaid Reentry Act and deliver treatment that allows individuals to find and follow the path to recovery. I am profoundly grateful to my colleagues from both parties who have been steadfast in supporting this legislation, especially Congressman Turner who, for six years, has championed this fight by bringing needed attention to the importance of addressing addiction that plagues incarcerated individuals. I look forward to our continued partnership working to combat the opioid crisis advance this life-saving legislation.”

This legislation is included as Subtitle B—Medicaid, SEC. 3103. ALLOWING FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE UNDER MEDICAID FOR INMATES DURING 30-DAY PERIOD PRECEDING RELEASE starting on page 15 here.

Tonko introduced the Medicaid Reentry Act with bipartisan support in February 2019. It was also advanced in the House last year as part of the Heroes Act COVID rescue plan.

The Medicaid Reentry Act:

  • Establishes limited new flexibility allowing states to restart benefits for Medicaid-eligible incarcerated individuals 30 days pre-release
  • Does not expand Medicaid eligibility in any way
  • Makes it easier for states to provide addiction treatment and services, allowing smoother transitions to community care and reducing risk of overdose deaths post-release

Supporting organizations include: A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing), American Jail Association, The American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, The Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Central City Concern, CleanSlate Centers, Community Catalyst, Community Oriented Correctional, Health Services (COCHS) HIV Medicine Association, International Community Corrections Association, The Kennedy Forum, Legal Action Center, Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), McShin Foundation, NACo, National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, The National Safety Council, National Sheriffs Association, Shatterproof, The Student Coalition on Addiction (SCA), Treatment Communities of America, Well Being Trust

National Sheriffs Association/Dane County Sheriff:

Sheriff Dave Mahoney, of Dane County and President of the National Sheriffs Association, said today he was pleased to lend the Sheriffs’ strong support of The Medicaid Reentry Act.  “This legislation will allow Medicaid to cover the last thirty days of medical assistance for incarcerated individuals.  This is an important part of the continuum of care for those with medical needs.  In the long run this will reduce recidivism and therefore ease budgetary burdens from the jail system.  Our taxpayers deserve that.”

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley:

“The Medicaid Reentry Act is an important piece of legislation that can save lives through continued coverage of effective addiction treatment options for individuals reentering the community,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the unique vulnerabilities individuals facing substance use disorder face upon release. In December, Milwaukee County saw a 108 percent increase in calls into Emergency Medical Services related to overdoses compared to 2019 - with more than 40 percent of those calls coming from Black residents – capping a tragic, year-long trend of increasing overdose calls to EMS in 2020. The data underscores the immediate need for legislation to help ensure uninterrupted and compressive coverage is available to our most vulnerable residents.”   

American Society of Addiction Medicine:

“Addiction doesn’t disappear behind bars, yet evidence-based addiction treatment is still too difficult to access for incarcerated individuals,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “During the first two weeks of reentry, people are 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose and are at significantly higher risk of suicide, underscoring the need to ensure coordinated care during such a vulnerable time. We commend these bipartisan leaders for introducing the Medicaid Reentry Act and urge Congress to pass this critical legislation quickly in order to reduce the risk of overdose and ultimately save lives.”

Community Oriented Correctional Health Services:

"The Medicaid Reentry Act is a critical part of our nation's response to growing mental health and substance use crises, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic," said Vikki Wachino, CEO of Community Oriented Correctional Health Services and former Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services at CMS.  "Health care continuity as people prepare to return to their families and communities will improve the lives of millions of people, and achieve better public health, public safety, and equity."

American Psychiatric Association:

“People with substance use and other psychiatric disorders need continuity of treatment. Ensuring that people who’ve been incarcerated can continue to access health care when they return to the community will save lives,” said American Psychiatric Assocation President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “Given the pandemic and the increase in overdose deaths we’re seeing overall, particularly among people who are incarcerated, we urge Congress to pass the Medicaid Reentry Act.”

National Association of Counties

“The Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy leads to an interruption in access to needed medical, mental health, and addiction treatment for jail inmates who disproportionately suffer from chronic medical conditions and substance use disorders,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “The MIEP leads to poorer health outcomes and higher recidivism rates. NACo applauds the reintroduction of the Medicaid Reentry Act, a key measure in strengthening counties’ ability to connect people to critical health care as they leave incarceration, including advancing connections to COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations and other services needed to protect their health, and the health of the community,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase.

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