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Michigan Corrections Department plans to save by enrolling inmates in expanded Medicaid program

LANSING, MI (WTVB) - The Michigan Department of Corrections could save big money by enrolling inmates and parolees in the state’s expanded Medicaid health care program. The correction department says it can save up to $19 million next year under the plan.

Corrections officials say that providing uninsured ex-cons with treatment for the mental illness, substance abuse and chronic health conditions that otherwise can lead them to commit crimes again could reap future savings in the state’s $2 billion-a-year corrections budget.

But questions remain, such as whether ex-prisoners will use the new benefits that are allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010. Michigan is among 26 states that adopted Medicaid expansion and is joining a growing number of states — including New York, Connecticut and Oregon — that have decided to provide the health benefits to criminals.

Michigan would save an estimated $16.8 million by shifting health costs to the federal government for in-patient stays at community hospitals for inmates. Under federal rules, Medicaid doesn’t cover health care provided inside prison facilities.

The Department of Corrections, which has 43,331 prisoners, also is working to enroll the state’s 18,000 parolees in expanded Medicaid — which is expected to save an additional $2.2 million in the fiscal year that starts October 1, 2014.