States Are Taking Advantage Of An Obamacare Loophole To Pass On Vast Inmate Health Costs

State governments are realising how much money they can save by passing on inmate health care costs to the federal government following changes under Obamacare.

Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon have all started enrolling inmates in Medicaid if they’re hospitalized for more than 24 hours while they’re incarcerated and when they get out of jail, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

While Medicaid, America’s health insurance for the poor, was once rarely given to childless adults, childless adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level (about $US16,000) are now eligible for Medicaid.

While state and local governments must generally pay for inmates’ health care, they are allowed to have them apply for Medicaid if they’re hospitalized for at least a day, Bloomberg’s Mark Niquette has noted. This lets states pass on the costs of big-ticket items like heart surgery. Since counties often have to pay for poor people’s hospital care, it can also save money to have ex-cons enrolled in Medicaid, according to Niquette.

Ohio stands to save $US18 million this year alone by enrolling prisoners and ex-cons in Medicaid, according to the Enquirer, and $US22 million a year by 2022.

Of course, Obama himself didn’t talk a lot about inmate health care when he was trying to sell Obamacare to the American people. In fact, U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, who was on the Senate Finance Committee when Obamacare was enacted, told Bloomberg’s Niquette that the increased inmate coverage was an unintended consequence of Obamacare.

“It starts to look a little like a scheme by the states and local jurisdictions to avoid responsibilities that are really theirs,” Conrad told Bloomberg.

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