A picture of Representative Alcee L. Hastings
Alcee H.
Democrat FL 20

About Rep. Alcee
  • Reintroduction of the Restoring the Partnership for County Health Care Costs Act of 2015

    by Representative Alcee L. Hastings

    Posted on 2015-12-09

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    HASTINGS of florida in the house of representatives Wednesday, December 9, 2015 Mr. HASTINGS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill to restore the partnership between the federal government and counties for the health care costs of inmates who have not been convicted of a crime. This legislation will provide some relief to our nation's local economies, while embodying the fundamental principles of our legal justice system.

    In almost all states, a person who is incarcerated in a county jail or juvenile detention facility loses their Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP or SSI benefits even if they have not been convicted of a crime. The U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the 8th Amendment requires government entities to provide medical care to all inmates. As a result, local governments are burdened with the expense of providing health care to thousands of men, women and children currently awaiting trial.

    Providing health care for inmates constitutes a major portion of local jail operating costs. Requiring county governments to cover health care costs for inmates who have not yet been convicted of a crime places an unnecessary burden on local governments, which have their fair share of widespread budget deficits and cuts to safety net programs and other essential services.

    Terminating benefits to inmates who are awaiting trial violates the presumption of innocence, which is a cornerstone principle of our justice system. The current practice does not distinguish between persons who are awaiting disposition of charges and persons who have been duly convicted and sentenced. This disproportionately affects low- income and minority populations who are often unable to post bond, which would enable them to continue receiving benefits.

    Mr. Speaker, my legislation addresses this problem by prohibiting the federal government from stripping individuals of their Medicare, Medicaid, and SSI benefits before the inmate has been convicted of a crime. It preserves the partnership between the federal and local governments and ensures that local governments are not burdened with an unfair share of meeting the mandate to guarantee medical coverage. I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this commonsense bill that addresses a problem affecting communities all across the nation.


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