Scientists are studying Oregon's prisoners to see whether getting health insurance will curb recidivism.

Many newly released prisoners have mental health and substance abuse issues. But few have health insurance.

Researcher Kamala Mallik-Kane with the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. wants to find out whether untreated medical conditions contribute to recidivism.

So far she's looked at 8,300 inmates released in 2010 and 2011. Mallik-Kane found that on average they were slightly more successful at enrolling in Medicaid than the general population, mainly because they have less money.

"We are following up on these individuals after they left prison to find out how many of them actually used Medicaid services ... And then we want to track how they did in terms of getting employed after release," she said.

The study is focusing on Oregon because the state expanded Medicaid coverage several years ago -- giving the nation a preview of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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