Columbia Basin Herald

An incarcerated person’s Medicaid may remain unaffected for the first 30 days of incarceration if a bill is signed during this year’s term.

House Bill 1348 would only suspend Medicaid status of an incarcerated person after 30 days of incarceration. Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, is the primary sponsor of HB 1348. Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, who represents District 9, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill states that under current law, an incarcerated person’s Medicaid benefits will be suspended if incarcerated. The majority of those detained are held for less than 30 days. Therefore, HB 1348 would prevent Medicaid from automatically suspending them.

Suspending Medicaid results in delays in reinstatement after a detainee is released. Davis said during a virtual hearing Thursday that it would take 48 to 72 hours for Medicaid to be reinstated if a person is released. She heard stories from people who couldn’t get medication because their Medicaid hadn’t been reinstated.

Schmick said in an interview with the Herald HB 1348 that people coming from local correctional facilities would benefit from it. Especially those who need to get their medication right away.

“I think this (bill) is very helpful,” said Schmick.

Ethan Frenchman, a Washington disability rights attorney, testified during the hearing in support of HB 1348. He said upholding Medicaid for people in prison was a humane, just and cost-effective policy.

“The bill would remove a significant, unnecessary hurdle that is holding people back from getting the care they desperately need,” said the Frenchman. “It reduces inequalities that affect people of color and people with disabilities hard.”

The Frenchman said a policy similar to HB 1348 had already been passed in states like New Mexico, Ohio and Massachusetts. The bill is a “big step forward”.

Yvette Maganya, government relations manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, also testified in support of HB 1348 during the hearing.

Maganya said people of color and people from low-income communities are over-represented in prisons and prisons. Bills like HB 1348 would not only enable continued Medicaid coverage, but would also help reduce health inequalities.

About half of Planned Parenthood’s patients use Medicaid, Maganya said, which gives them access to things like birth control wellness exams, behavioral health services, and substance use treatments.

“These services are vital for all people, especially those who are incarcerated,” said Maganya.

Representatives had not voted on HB 1348 by Thursday.

Comments are closed.