Policy UpdatesTexas House Committee on Public Health – HB 337 and HB 1734

Texas House Committee on Public Health – HB 337 and HB 1734

On March 28, 2017, MMHPI Director of Smart Justice B.J. Wagner, was invited testimony at the Texas House Committee on Public Health. Ms. Wagner’s was invited testimony on two bills related to Medicaid suspension: HB 337 and HB 1734. HB 337, relating to the continuation of certain public benefits, including medical assistance benefits, for individuals after release from confinement in a county jail, was filed by Representative Nicole Collier. HB 1734, relating to the continuation of certain public benefits, including medical assistance, for individuals after release from confinement in a county jail, was filed by Representative Royce West.

34%

Texas inmates with a mental health need (2017)

$461 million

jail costs for individuals with mental illness

Ms. Wagner began her presentation by highlighting the need for continuity of care to reduce jail recidivism with key highlights

  • Ensuring that eligible individuals with mental health care needs are enrolled in Medicaid at release, or immediately thereafter, can reduce systemic costs by lowering recidivism rates.
  • In other states, having Medicaid at release was associated with up to a 16 percent reduction in the average number of subsequent detentions as well as enhanced community service use after jail release.

She also discussed Medicaid eligibility through SSI benefits and compared Medicaid suspension versus termination for people who are incarcerated.

Medicaid suspension allows an incarcerated individual to:

  • Remain on the Medicaid rolls in a suspended status;
  • Demonstrate continued eligibility;
  • Obtain qualifying inpatient medical care outside the penal institution, if needed; and
  • Quickly reactivate Medicaid, when released, to maintain continuity of care.

Once Medicaid is terminated, reinstatement can take 90 days (at best) and often as long as one-year, post release.