On April 29th the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a shift in policy that will for the first time allow released prisoners residing in “halfway houses” to take advantage of the services made available through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion. The change will provide much-needed medical and rehabilitative services to countless former inmates that would not otherwise have access to essential healthcare resources. It may seem like a minor change but as a practical matter it is likely to do more to encourage successful reentry than any other single policy decision in recent years.
Until now, halfway house residents have been excluded from coverage because of an interpretation of the Medicaid statute that considered halfway house residents to be “inmates of public institutions” – a category of persons that are statutorily ineligible for Medicaid coverage. The new DHHS guidance removes those in halfway houses from that category so long as they have “freedom of movement and association while residing in the facility.” It also clarifies that individuals on parole and probation are not “inmates” and are eligible for coverage.