Case Studies

Optimizing Healthcare Coverage for Arkansas’s Criminal Justice Population

February 1, 2015

Contact

Joseph W. Thompson, MD, MPH
President & CEO
501-526-2244
achi@achi.net

 

Many individuals reentering the community after serving time in the criminal justice system have substantial health needs and encounter social and economic challenges upon transition. For many of these individuals, access to affordable coverage has been unavailable. Arkansas’s decision to extend coverage to low-income adults through the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program (HCIP) provides the state with an opportunity to improve the health of its most vulnerable residents, including jail-involved individuals reentering the community. This decision has significant implications for jail-involved adults, considering that 60 percent of them have incomes of less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) before their arrest. Individuals involved with the criminal justice system experience social challenges such as housing instability and lower education levels, and have high rates of mental illness and substance use disorders. New coverage options have the potential to aid in this population’s ability to access needed care and manage ongoing conditions.

This document discusses opportunities to enroll jail-involved individuals in the HCIP; connect those with coverage to primary care; and ensure continuity of care, which can improve this population’s health outcomes, reduce federal and state spending on uncompensated care, and improve recidivism rates.