May 3, 2016

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More Coloradans to get Medicaid

by | May 3, 2016

An estimated 5,000 Coloradans who lacked health coverage options will now qualify for Medicaid under recent guidance the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued on Thursday.  The guidance clarifies that those who reside in community corrections facilities while on probation or parole are not considered inmates of a public institution and therefore are eligible for Medicaid.

This is good news for a group that often has high medical needs that previously had no access to federally funded health insurance in Colorado. It also highlights the Colorado Center on Law Policy’s groundbreaking advocacy work on the issue.

In 2008, CCLP’s Elisabeth Arenales received a phone call from Colorado Legal Services (CLS) regarding an individual in desperate need of medical care. CLS could not serve the former inmate due to his status in the state’s community corrections system. While CCLP got the individual access to testing and some treatment through Denver Health, the underlying medical issue was not completely addressed because the individual was neither eligible for Medicaid nor the Colorado Indigent Care Program.

At the time, the Department of Corrections informed CCLP that for some people, the only option is to go back to prison to get the medical care they need. As a result of this case, CCLP contacted the Colorado Lawyers Committee (CLC) to collaborate on the issue. CLC later submitted a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

CCLP also enlisted U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette and Gov. John Hickenlooper in the effort. Additionally, John Suthers, then Colorado’s Attorney General, submitted a letter to the regional administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. Suthers supported the position that individuals in community corrections should be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

While other states also raised the issue with HHS, Colorado is unique in that its community corrections facilities are operated by nonprofit contractors. Hence, the federal government considered community corrections clients to be residing in public institutions and therefore ineligible for federally funded health insurance. Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Corrections did not consider former inmates eligible for corrections-funded health care because they were no longer incarcerated.

CCLP applauds HHS for issuing this important guidance that will finally ensure coverage options for a high-needs population.
– Bob Mook

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CCLP Statement on Health and Hospital Corporation v. Talevski

Last term, we watched as the Supreme Court issued rulings that had wide sweeping consequences for individuals across the country. The Court tipped its hat to the second amendment by expanding the ability to carry guns in public while simultaneously decimating the...

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