The federal Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity for local governments to enroll jail inmates in health insurance programs that could lower costs and improve health conditions. Moreover, California has recently passed legislation that facilitates the use of jails as sites of health care enrollment.
PPIC researchers Mia Bird and Shannon McConville address this topic in a recent report titled Health Care for California’s Jail Population. The report, presented at a public event this week in Sacramento, finds that nearly 2.3 million health care visits were recorded in county jails statewide in 2012. Inmates have disproportionately high health needs and typically have had little access to health care prior to incarceration. Connecting inmates to health coverage before they are released from custody may help to reduce county costs, lower recidivism, and improve public health.