- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Inmates at New Mexico prisons will be able to apply for Medicaid under a new law that may reduce recidivism.

The new law was among 78 others that took effect Friday. It opens the door for thousands of inmates to apply for Medicaid and receive services once they’re released, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1L5CqKc).

Advocates say access to medical and mental health treatment immediately after release could prevent future offenses.

Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott says the agency helped inmates apply for Medicaid upon their release, but that the process had been closed to people who were still incarcerated.

Medicaid will also pay for some inpatient hospital stays under the new law.

Basic health costs aren’t part of the law, and are usually paid by municipalities or counties.

The state’s decision to expand Medicaid in January 2014 as part of the federal health care law added more than 200,000 people to Medicaid rolls.

Human Services Department numbers show more than a third of New Mexico’s population is signed up for Medicaid as of May 31.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the federal government is currently covering 100 percent of the expansion, but that state expenses will jump to $120 million for the program once that level drops to 90 percent.

Legislative Finance Committee director David Abbey said during a meeting with lawmakers in Santa Fe that Medicaid spending is going to be a major part of future budget talks.

“Other parts of the budget are going to have to shrink,” he said. “If the Medicaid share is growing faster, something else has to grow more slowly. Public schools are a priority, public safety is a priority, and higher ed’s share has gone down 2 or 3 percent over a decade, so it’s a lot to be concerned about.”

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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