Correctional chaplains are positioned strategically to be champions of whole-person health and wellness and to help facilitate increased health-insurance coverage for those incarcerated. Although chaplains are often perceived as strictly purveyors of spiritual health, the fact is that many religious people view spiritual health as inseparable from their emotional, mental and physical being. Thankfully, over the past several decades, much of Western medicine has returned to the long-ago healing tradition that stressed the interdependence of the mind, body and spirit, or "whole-person health." In the 1990s, an approach to care called integrative medicine was launched, which centers on the individual and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences on their health.
For this article, health insurance is defined as any program that helps pay for medical expenses, whether through privately purchased plans or social insurance programs like Medicaid and social security. Since it became law in March 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has been touted as a major "game changer" for the justice-involved population. One of the requirements of the PPACA is that states must provide targeted outreach to their underserved, vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, and individuals in jails and prisons fit those criteria. For the first time ever, because of the PPACA, uninsured and underinsured individuals within correctional care are eligible for much-needed medical services, especially treatment for substance abuse and mental-health disorders. Under the PPACA's "essential health benefits" category, health plans offered through the state Health Insurance Marketplace (HIM) are required to cover mental health and substance-abuse treatment.
Other benefits arising from the PPACA are that insurers can no longer deny coverage to individuals based on preexisting conditions, and young adults (up to 26 years old) can obtain health-care coverage under their parent's insurance plan. The PPACA eliminates co-payments or cost-sharing for adult mental health and alcohol screenings, as they are included as preventive services, which are at no cost to those who have Medicaid, Medicare and/or qualified health plans offered on the HIM.
So, what can correctional chaplains do to help advance health and wellness and insurance coverage for the incarcerated populations? A tripartite approach is...