Increased access to Medicaid coverage helps keep formerly incarcerated people from returning to prison, GVSU researcher finds
Former prisoners who qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are more likely to receive treatment for addiction and are less likely to return to prison, said a Grand Valley researcher.
Erkmen Aslim, assistant professor of economics in the Seidman College of Business, along with colleagues from Texas A&M University and Dalton State College, studied the implications of health insurance reform for criminal recidivism.
“We specifically wanted to look at disadvantaged populations, especially former inmates, because they tend to be out of the traditional Medicaid coverage,” said Aslim. “With expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA, many former prisoners are eligible. We wanted to explore whether the expansion increases access to treatment and, in turn, reduces criminal recidivism.
Aslim said many former inmates struggle with mental health and substance use disorders.
“If we look at the numbers, about 58 percent of state prisoners and at least 40 percent of federal inmates have substance abuse problems, and only half participate in drug treatment programs when admitted,” he explained.
Eight to 10 months after release, Aslim said the percentage of former inmates receiving treatment for substance abuse or addictions drops to 25 percent.
The study found that increasing access to Medicaid coverage under the ACA reduces violent crime recidivism by 30 percent, and public-order crime recidivism by 24 percent.
Aslim said public health insurance could help prevent around 100,000 ex-offenders from returning to prison every three years.
“Inmates should be educated about their health care options and treatment before they are released,” he said. “They are overwhelmed with information while trying to find a job, find housing and start a new life. Before release, they should get help enrolling into Medicaid.”