WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today announced the introduction of the Equity in Pre-Trial Health Coverage Act, legislation that would protect the continuity of federal health benefits under Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, and Veterans Affairs for pretrial detainees, ensuring health care services are provided to an individual who is in custody pending disposition of charges.

“In this country you’re considered innocent until proven guilty, and taking health insurance coverage away from individuals while they wait for their constitutionally protected day in court is counter to that American value,” said Senator Brown.

Currently, individuals who have been arrested and are able to post bail maintain their coverage, while those who remain in custody can lose it despite not having been convicted of the crime for which they have been charged. This policy leads to a gap in coverage for individuals covered by federal health programs awaiting trial. This unfair and discriminatory practice keeps individuals from accessing necessary care in their community, and shifts the cost of medical treatment for pretrial detainees to local city, county, and state agencies, and is particularly concerning for individuals with substance use disorders and other mental health conditions that require consistent and sustained medical treatment. These unnecessary disruptions in care only exacerbate existing health issues for some of our most vulnerable populations and put pressure on local budgets to provide uncompensated care.

The Equity in Pre-Trial Health Coverage Act has been endorsed by the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

A copy of the bill can be found HERE.