Health Care Bill Could Require States to Keep Juvies on Medicaid

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An amendment added to the enormous health care reform bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would require states to continue the Medicaid coverage of juvenile offenders locked up in juvenile facility.

Medicaid, or at least the federal share of it, could still not be used for services within the facility. However, should the amendment survive to be included in whatever bill is signed into law by President Barack Obama, states would have to make sure juveniles were released with Medicaid enrollment intact.

Before a youth leaves a facility, the amendment states, the state must "ensure that such youth is enrolled for" Medicaid. Enrollment must take place before a release date "so that the youthcan access medical assistance under this title immediately upon leaving the institution."

States currently have the right to terminate enrollment from Medicaid of incarcerated juveniles, but research conducted last year by Youth Today indicates that fewer than 10 states are at all aggressive about doing so. Most states either ask parents to notify Medicaid, do not have a policy of terminating the enrollment of juveniles, or would only do so if the juvenile was incarcerated during an annual Medicaid review.

The amendment was submitted by Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and was accepted by voice vote on Friday.

"The health care system we have now fails those who need access to care the most, and unfortunately, a perfect example of this failure is kids in our juvenile justice system," Murphy said in a news release. "Being healthy is crucial to the growth of kids who have struggled to find their place in society, and cutting off access to basic care will only create unnecessary obstacles for them."

The health care reform bill has not passed either the House or Senate, which are working on different versions of the bill. Obama is pushing for both houses to approve a final bill by the end of the year.