UPDATED: PA Legislature passes Medical Assistance suspension instead of termination for inmates

on Wednesday - June 29, 2016.

UPDATE: 7/8/2016: Governor Wolf has signed into law a new measure that will SUSPEND Medicaid (Medical Assistance) benefits rather than terminating them for anyone who is going to be incarcerated for 2 years or less. This will be a tremendous benefit to any of the more than 6000 people who go into Lancaster County Prison every year who are on Medical Assistance, as they will have immediate access to healthcare benefits upon their release.

For an article explaining more about this legislation, see http://cumberlink.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/vance-bill-to-ease-reentry-from-prison-awaits-wolf-s/article_285eb667-42c9-57d4-a2cf-2a192423f1fc.html 


(this article was written by our RMO summer intern, Gabriel Anthony-Kemp)

For quite some time persons reentering into society have been plagued with unjust and seemingly inescapable hardships. Among these hardships is access to affordable and effective medical help. Similar to mainstream society, many returning citizens struggle with addiction and have mental health complications, but because of their status or situation coming out of incarceration, they don't have the same access that another citizen would. Recently, there has been nationwide movement in changing Medicaid programs so that returning citizens will be able to utilize their services. Potentially, Medicaid is a source that would assist those reentering in supporting addiction and mental health needs.

As a new article by the Council of State Governments explains, "As states across the country adopt changes in their Medicaid programs, people who were previously ineligible for coverage have become eligible, including a significant number of people involved with the criminal justice system." 

In Pennsylvania, the legislature is considering Senate Bill 1279 that would suspend Medical Assistance (Medicaid) benefits while someone is incarcerated, rather than terminating these benefits. If passed, this change would make a significant difference to the large numbers of people in our prisons and jails who suffer from addiction and mental health concerns, as they would no longer have to re-apply for Medical Assistance upon their release from incarceration and then wait for coverage. The bill is currently sitting in the PA Senate's Public Health & Welfare committee.

For details on who's on the PA Senate's Public Health & Welfare committee, see


For a summary article about this proposed legislation in PA, see


For more from the Council of State Governments on this issue, see