Michigan House Republicans
Kuhn amendment to save counties money on health care for inmates fails in committee
RELEASE|May 3, 2024
Contact: Tom Kuhn

When a someone who receives Medicaid is arrested, they lose the federally funded health care benefit upon incarceration in a local jail, even if they have not yet been convicted of a crime. This pushes the cost of medical treatment of inmates onto local taxpayers, and it also often disrupts necessary patient care.

An amendment to the state budget would have potentially solved these problems by allowing Medicaid to be used in certain circumstances, but that amendment failed in committee on Wednesday.

The amendment was offered by state Rep. Tom Kuhn during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. Kuhn, R-Troy, said the amendment is needed to save counties money, and to ensure continuity of patient care.

“Local jails have a huge amount of people coming in who have serious chronic problems, people who suffer from chronic substance abuse, and then they cannot be treated, they often cannot even use existing prescriptions because all of a sudden Medicaid is gone,” Kuhn said. “Jails should be able to utilize Medicaid for treatment instead of making county taxpayers pay for it.”

Section 1905(a)(A) of the Social Security Act prohibits the use of federal funds for medical care to inmates. The intent was to prevent state governments from shifting health care costs onto federal health and disability programs, but as a result, pretrial inmates are also barred from receiving assistance.

Kuhn said that a waiver from the federal government would allow Medicaid to cover anyone who is 90 days away from release from jail.

Kuhn said there are four problems with the current system:

It denies federal benefits to individuals have not been convicted and are therefore still presumed innocent; it creates a system of unequal treatment since defendants who are released from jail pending trial are still eligible for benefits; it disrupts patient care; and it shifts the cost to local taxpayers.

“The state is already seeking a waiver for itself; I haven’t heard a good argument why we should wait to get a waiver for our local county jails too,” Kuhn said. “And again, this isn’t just about saving counties money, it’s about making sure patients are still able to continue medically necessary treatment.”

The amendment failed because it received no Democratic support.

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