Booker, Murphy Introduce Bill to Prevent Gap in Health Care Coverage for Youth in Juvenile Justice System

Booker, Murphy Introduce Bill to Prevent Gap in Health Care Coverage for Youth in Juvenile Justice System

WASHINGTON – Today, during National Reentry Week, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) 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.

“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.”

“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,” Murphy said. “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.”

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