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Published on Friday, February 19, 2016

Bill providing continuity of care for recipients of Medicaid advances

SB 6430, sponsored by Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee), successfully passed before the February 17 cutoff deadline and continues to move through the Legislature. Its companion, HB 2850, did not advance.

HB 6430 comes out of recommendations of the Adult Behavioral Health Task Force and would suspend, rather than terminate, Medicaid medical assistance benefits for persons who are incarcerated by July 1, 2017. AWC is very supportive of this legislation.

Under current law, when individuals are incarcerated their Medicaid benefits are terminated under a rule called the “inmate exclusion,” which poses great challenges once they leave incarceration. If they are struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues and need to access treatment, the ability to access treatment without medical benefits proves to be very challenging. The federal government grants waivers of existing Medicaid rules to states under certain circumstances. An example of this is a Section 1115 waiver, under which, subject to negotiation, the federal government allows a state to provide services or extend coverage under Medicaid in areas that would normally be disallowed. In 2004, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services sent a letter to state Medicaid directors encouraging all states to "suspend" and not "terminate" Medicaid services while a person is an inmate of a public institution.

SB 6430 would also require the Health Care Authority to collaborate with the Department of Social and Health Services, the Washington State Association of Counties, and Accountable Communities of Health to improve population health. The bill would also reduce avoidable use of intensive services and settings by requesting expenditure authority from the federal government to provide behavioral health services to persons who are incarcerated in local jails.

Categories: Human services