By Kelly House , The Oregonian
Backers have promoted the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion as a way to reduce health care costs for many Americans.
Multnomah County officials expect national health care reform to cut the county’s medical bills, too.
By enrolling jail inmates in nationally subsidized healthcare — best known as “Obamacare” to both the President and his critics — the county could bill the federal government for the cost of providing some of them medical care.
County health department officials briefed Multnomah County commissioners on the issue this week.
In addition to saving the county money, enrolling inmates in Obamacare would also mean a significant percentage will now have insurance when their jail stay is done.
The county’s corrections health care team has begun a push to enroll jail inmates in Medicaid or other forms of coverage. Seven “eligibility specialists” began working this week to help inmates complete their insurance applications, and they signed 22 inmates up for continuing care during their first day on the job.
County health officials say they hope to create a “warm handoff” from in-custody care to civilian care. Often, uninsured inmates who can’t afford medical bills forego treatment once they are released from jail.
“The jail is the primary place where many inmates receive care, and we are trying very hard to change that, said Nancy Griffith, the county’s director of corrections health.