“Congress can save lives by making sure people have continuous health coverage and access to life saving treatment through Medicaid during reentry.” -Emily Stewart


March 30, 2023

Contact: Jack Cardinal, 781-960-5208, jcardinal@communitycatalyst.org

(BOSTON, MA) – Today’s reintroduction of the Reentry Act (formerly the Medicaid Reentry Act) is an opportunity for Congress to save lives. This common-sense, bipartisan legislation, would connect individuals to Medicaid coverage thirty days before they are released from incarceration – helping keep them, and our communities, healthy.

This policy is especially impactful for Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+ and other systemically-excluded communities who face disproportionately higher rates of incarceration due to systemic discrimination within the criminal justice system. This, coupled with existing stigma and barriers to care for these populations within the U.S. health care system, creates dangerous hurdles for people accessing or continuing care post-incarceration. 

Statement from Emily Stewart, Executive Director, Community Catalyst:

“Community Catalyst has been a long-time champion of the Reentry Act, which will help ensure justice-involved populations have the health care support they need to successfully re-enter their communities. This is a common-sense, bipartisan policy that would eliminate potentially dangerous lapses in health coverage. 

“Congress can save lives by making sure people have continuous health coverage and access to life saving treatment through Medicaid during reentry. We applaud Senators Baldwin and Braun, as well as Representatives Tonko, Turner, Rutherford and Trone for their leadership on this critical issue. 

“Together with local, state and national partners, Community Catalyst urges Congress to pass the Reentry Act.”

As part of our health justice work, Community Catalyst is creating durable, cross-movement connections between advocates for health care, criminal justice, harm reduction, mental health and substance use disorders. Together, we are working with communities to improve health care at local, state and federal levels through policy that is shaped by and accountable to people with lived experience of substance use disorders. Learn more about our work on Substance Use Disorders and Justice-Involved Populations. 

Additional information on the Reentry Act

  • We need the Reentry Act because federal law known as the inmate exclusion policy prohibits Medicaid coverage for people in jail or prison, adding to barriers to physical, mental health and addiction services.
  • Because of mass incarceration of Black and Latinx people, especially through the punitive policies of the War on Drugs, the prison and jail population is disproportionately Black and Latinx people, so they are more likely to experience the  fragmented health care that can result from incarceration.  
  • This is especially dangerous for incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders, as many are forced into withdrawal while in prison and are at increased risk of fatal overdose upon release.
  • The Reentry Act would help fix these problems. Providing Medicaid coverage during 30 days before release from incarceration will keep our communities healthy. Incarcerated individuals are also at particular risk of contracting COVID-19 because of jail/prison conditions. Making sure these individuals have uninterrupted health coverage, particularly during the transition period when they are reentering their communities, is essential for keeping them healthy, limiting spread of the virus and protecting the health of the community overall.
  • Additionally, it would alleviate the fiscal burden on state and local jurisdictions that have assumed the responsibility of providing care, including behavioral health services, in correctional settings by reimbursing for care while also reducing recidivism.  

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About Community Catalyst: 

Community Catalyst is a leading non-profit national health advocacy organization dedicated to advancing a movement for race equity and health justice. We partner with local, state and national advocates to leverage and build power so all people can influence decisions that affect their health. Health systems will not be accountable to people without a fully engaged and organized community voice. That’s why we work every day to ensure people’s interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and health care are made: in communities, state houses and on Capitol Hill.For more information, visit http://www.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @CommCatHealth