Medicaid expansion isn’t just about hospitals

Grits has an insight.

At [last] Monday’s House County Affairs hearing, Chairman Garnet Coleman noted the irony in response to testimony by witnesses regarding the effectiveness of Veterans Courts, which are essentially mental-health courts aimed at current and former military members. Citing the example of a mentally ill veteran coming back from Afghanistan who, as a civilian, earned less than 133% of the poverty rate, Coleman noted such a person could essentially gain access to mental health services only by committing a crime.  (The Department of Veterans Affairs provides some services, but nothing like those needed for someone with a chronic, serious mental illness.) By rejecting Medicaid funds, said Coleman, the state would strip away options for indigent veterans and everybody else below the 133% threshold to access treatment services outside the justice system.

His comments got me thinking: The biggest implication for the criminal justice system from rejecting Medicaid funds really stems from the missed opportunity to attract billions (with a “b”) in new funding for mental health services that would be delivered outside the criminal justice system.

It may not be just hospital executives and insurance companies imploring Rick Perry to do the right thing, or at least it shouldn’t be. Whether that will make a difference or not is anybody’s guess. Read the whole thing and see what you think.

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