Health Insurance for Felons: Everything You Need to Know Before Going to Prison

Being convicted of a felony will change your world in ways that you might not have realized were possible. There’s the big one: jail time. However, a felony charge has repercussions that extend beyond the time spent in a penitentiary, too. And it even has a way of disrupting other areas of your life including your medical needs and your healthcare. Do felons even get health insurance? What if you have a preexisting condition that requires treatment? Where do you go to get help? Before these questions overwhelm you, here’s a crash course in health insurance for felons.

Health insurance during incarceration

First things first: Felons are not eligible to receive any sort of private insurance during their incarceration period. Whether you’re spending time in the Osceola county jail or are preparing for a sentence at a state penitentiary, you won’t have to worry about private plans, deductibles, or even monthly premiums. So, does this mean you’re going to go without healthcare? Simply put, no. Regardless of if you’re incarcerated at a federal, state, or local prison, you’re not responsible for footing the entire bill for your health insurance. That’s because the department of corrections is liable for any costs during your time in jail. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook for every single medical expense.

Depending on the state in which you’re incarcerated, there’s still the matter of copays. These are one-time charges that you’re required to pay any time that you seek medical care. Even today, many states still defer the cost of copays back to the inmates. Now, these charges will vary state-to-state and some are quite small while others can climb nearly as high as $100. These charges will come from your commissary account. Typically, these are filled by family members providing money but you can also earn finances for your commissary by taking on jobs around the prison.

Insurance upon release

While a felony charge can impact your post-release life in several significant ways, it’s not going to have any bearing on the type of health insurance you’re able to acquire. After you’re incarceration, you’re eligible for any kind of health insurance, including Medicare, Medicaid, and private plans. Health insurance innovations have also made it so you can obtain short-term coverage which can be highly beneficial during a sometimes tumultuous transition back to your everyday life. Of course, one of the biggest things to consider is the cost of insurance.

As you likely know, securing employment with a felony on your record can often prove difficult. 

While a private plan may appear tempting due to the coverage it offers, monthly premiums seem to only be increasing. That’s why you need to have a few resources for finding cheap or even free medical care. Often, this starts by looking into Medicaid. Medicaid is an income-based health service that offers quality coverage to individuals and families that don’t make enough money to afford private insurance. Monthly premiums are greatly reduced and you can even apply while incarcerated. While coverage won’t take effect while in prison, you’ll be covered the day you’re released if you need to seek care.

On top of that, there are numerous free clinics nationwide if even the cost of Medicaid could prove to be burdensome. While it may not seem like it, felons have a fair amount of options to ensure they have adequate care upon release.

Whether you’re relying on a reentry program after your incarceration or you’re diving right back into your life, there are resources available to make sure your medical needs are covered. Don’t go without treatment and care because you think you don’t have a choice. There’s help out there. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.