County officials and sheriffs from around the U.S. are ramping up an effort to press for changes to a federal policy that strips Medicaid coverage and other federal health care benefits from people who are in jail but who have not been convicted of crimes.
Counties and their local taxpayers end up covering medical expenses for people locked up pretrial. But the federal government and states share the cost of people on Medicaid, which provides health coverage for low-income Americans
Those involved in a new initiative focused on the issue say they’re not only concerned about money. The federal policy, they say, is also disruptive for the people it affects—who are disproportionately poor, minorities, or coping with mental illness and substance abuse.
“It’s something I know I’ve heard about for years,” said Commissioner Nancy Sharpe, of Arapahoe County, Colorado. “It’s a huge cost to the counties and isn’t really the best solution for the individuals coming into our jails.”
“It truly is an error in federal law,” she added.