CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Division of Corrections officials estimate the division has already saved more than $1 million in medical treatment costs this year by having inmates on Medicaid.

The Division of Corrections has been enrolling inmates with Medicaid since January 2014, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported (http://bit.ly/2chRXsE ). That’s when, as part of a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the state expanded its program to cover those who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

Medicaid pays for treatment of inmates only after they have been admitted to a hospital for more than 24 hours. Because they don’t have an income while in prison, all inmates are generally eligible.

Estimating that inpatient hospitalization costs about $1,600 per day, about $1.15 million was saved from January until July, Debbie Hissom, health services administrator for the Division of Corrections, wrote in an email to the Gazette-Mail. She emphasized that the figures are currently projections, since the billing process is lengthy and certain claims might be denied.

The Division of Corrections has also helped 670 parolees or released inmates sign up for Medicaid ahead of their release or parole, as of earlier this month.

Some correction officials and health policy analysts believe Medicaid could bring down recidivism rates, reasoning that an increase in access to mental and substance-abuse treatment programs would lead former inmates to be less likely to commit actions that would land them back in prison.

It is too early to tell whether Medicaid access is having that effect, as the most recently released recidivism data comes from 2012.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.