WASHINGTON – Today, during National Reentry Week, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the At-Risk Youth Medicaid Protection Act to ensure that children who spend time in the juvenile justice system continue to receive much-needed health care coverage and treatments after their release from custody. Many children in the juvenile justice system rely on Medicaid, but too many states automatically terminate their Medicaid enrollment, causing serious gaps in coverage. The process to re-apply can take months, which unfairly denies children access to their medication and to mental health and substance abuse treatment. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as many as 70% of children in the juvenile justice system suffer from a mental disorder.
The At Risk Youth Medicaid Protection Act would prohibit states from terminating an eligible child’s Medicaid coverage, and instead require states to automatically restore a child’s enrollment in a medical assistance plan upon his or her release. U.S. Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) are introducing a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“If kids are incarcerated, they need their medication when they come out. But many states block them from getting the medication and treatment they need. The easiest way to guarantee that a kid will be locked up again is to deny him the medication needed to live a normal, productive life,” said Murphy. “Our bill is simple. It makes sure that kids don’t have a gap in coverage and that they have access to their medication and their mental health and substance abuse treatments during the most critical reintegration period.”
“Our nation must do more to support our most vulnerable youth, including ensuring a child does not encounter unnecessary obstacles to treatment, medication or mental health services just because of burdensome paperwork,” Booker said. “I am pleased to join with Senator Murphy and Congressmen Cárdenas and Griffith to reintroduce legislation that will help provide access to health care for at-risk youth.”
The At-Risk Youth Medicaid Protection Act will help ensure that children receive health care immediately upon their release by:
- Prohibiting states from terminating enrollment for eligible youth in state plans for medical assistance while in custody;
- Requiring states to automatically restore enrollment in medical assistance plans upon release by taking all necessary steps to ensure that enrollment is effective upon release;
- Requiring states to process applications for medical assistance submitted by or on behalf of a child;
- Making access to medical assistance for children under foster care consistent with the Affordable Care Act by extending the age of eligibility to 26.
The At-Risk Youth Medicaid Protection Act has been endorsed by the National Disability Rights Network, the National Juvenile Justice Network, and the Robert F. Kennedy Juvenile Justice Collaborative.