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Prison inmates signing up for Affordable Care Act

CHICAGO, March 10 (UPI) -- Prison inmates are signing up to the Affordable Care Act to receive healthcare benefits when they are released, a report said Monday.

In a little-noticed outcome of the legislation, the New York Times noted, the inmates are taking advantage of the expansion of Medicaid that allows states to extend coverage to single and childless adults, a major part of the U.S. prison population.

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Medicaid does not pay for standard coverage for inmates but can pay for hospital stays longer than 24 hours, meaning states can transfer millions of dollars of costs to the federal government. More importantly, the Times said, enrolled inmates will have medical coverage when they are released from prison.

"For those newly covered, it will open treatment doors for them" and potentially reduce recidivism, said Dr. Fred Osher of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

People released from prison have disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases, including mental illnesses and addictive disorders and few, until now, have had access to medical insurance.

Inmates in Chicago's Cook County Jail apply for Medicaid under the new healthcare law as a part of the arrest process. More than 4,000 applications have been submitted since Jan. 1. In Colorado, state prisoners sign up when they require extended hospitalization, and in the Portland, Ore., area, more than 1,200 inmates have enrolled through the state exchange program, the Times said.

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