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County officials pleased by MDC Medicaid enrollment

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County officials learned that 58 percent of inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center were enrolled in Medicaid during a one-day “snapshot” of the jail’s population last month, said Tom Swisstack, deputy county manager for public safety.

The finding is good news for the county, which is developing a pilot program to enroll all eligible inmates in Medicaid, he said.

The ultimate goal is to prevent inmates from returning to jail by enrolling them in medical, mental health and substance abuse services from the day they leave custody, Swisstack said.

“Fifty-eight percent of 1,748 is a large number,” said Swisstack, referring to the total inmate population on June 18, the day the snapshot was taken. “It means the system is doing a pretty good job of enrolling people” in Medicaid, he said.

Lawmakers this year approved a bill that allows the state Human Services Department to enroll jail and prison inmates in Medicaid while they are in custody. Gov. Susana Martinez signed it into law in April.

The law, which took effect July 1, also ended the practice of terminating Medicaid coverage when an inmate enters jail or prison.

Now, a person’s Medicaid coverage is suspended during incarceration, and resumes the day of release.

As of Friday, 805,607 New Mexicans were enrolled in Medicaid, the state and federally funded medical insurance program for the poor.

A goal of the pilot program is to enroll inmates within three days after they are booked in jail, Swisstack said. MDC has identified 13 staff members to serve as case managers responsible for enrolling inmates and connecting them to services at the time of release, he said.

A key part of the program will be a closer working relationship between MDC and the four insurance companies that manage the state’s Medicaid program, said Loretta Cordova, director of behavioral health services for Molina Healthcare.

Molina is one of four managed care organizations under contract to manage New Mexico’s Centennial Care Medicaid program.

The others are Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, Presbyterian Health Plan and United Healthcare.

Some inmates released from MDC will be assigned care coordinator by the insurance companies, Cordova said. Care coordinators are responsible for enrolling Medicaid clients in appropriate services, which could include medical and behavioral health care, dental and vision, Cordova said.

Care coordinators also are responsible for helping Medicaid patients navigate the health care system and ensuring they have transportation to appointments, she said.

The program is likely to bring additional Medicaid clients into the system and may require Molina to hire additional employees, she said.

“Our goal is for our members to get the right care at the right time at the right place,” she said.