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What We’re Reading: Why Thousands Of Ex-Felons Will Soon Get Health Care, States Cope With The Doctor Shortage

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

Implementation of the federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act, means thousands of former prisoners will be eligible for medical care. Stateline reports starting early next year, many of the 650,000 inmates released each year will have access to Medicaid. Here’s an excerpt:

A sizeable portion of the nearly 5 million ex-offenders who are on parole or probation at any given time will also be covered.

The expansion of Medicaid, a key provision of the health care reform law, is the main vehicle for delivering health insurance to former prisoners.

Researchers and those who advocate on behalf of ex-convicts hail the change as monumental, saying it will help address the generally poor health of ex-offenders, reduce medical costs and possibly keep them from sliding back into crime.

“It potentially revolutionizes the criminal justice system and health system,” said Faye Taxman, a health services criminologist at George Mason University. “We now have a golden opportunity to develop and implement quality interventions to both improve health outcomes for this population and also reduce the rate of criminal activity.” – Stateline

Last week, we introduced you to an ex-felon who lives in Boise who could potentially benefit if Idaho lawmakers chose to expand Medicaid coverage. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter hasn’t given a definitive answer on if the state will expand, but it likely won’t happen before January given the Legislature adjourned without addressing the issue. You can read the entire Stateline piece here.

Last year, StateImpact Idaho reported extensively on the doctor shortage facing the state. Idaho has fewer physicians per capita than all of our neighboring states. Only Mississippi has fewer doctors per capita than Idaho. And as Idaho’s doctors continue to age, and more people become eligible for health insurance benefits, the shortage is expected to worsen.

Governing recently reported on efforts in other states to address the shortage.

It’s a concern that most states are taking seriously during their current legislative sessions. States can’t train 90,000 doctors overnight, so they’re trying to address the shortage with “scope-of-practice” legislation, which sets standards for what medical services health-care professionals can perform. This year, at least 170 scope-of-practice bills have been introduced in 39 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

One of the more common proposals across states is to expand nurse practitioners’ jobs to allow them to perform more basic primary care and even open their own clinics. At least 50 bills related to nurse practices have been introduced in 22 states. While debate over each bill is distinct, scope-of-practice legislation, particularly covering nurse practictioners, sometimes faces opposition from doctor groups that say they worry about unqualified personnel giving care without supervision. – Governing

You can read the full article ’6 Ways States Are Addressing the Doctor Shortage’ here.

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