Can Former Inmates Get Health Insurance?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 18, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Being released from prison can be a struggle. Former inmates can find themselves far from support systems and have a difficult time landing a job, which can increase the rate of recidivism. One factor that contributes to recently released people returning to crime is often overlooked: access to health care.

People convicted of felonies often find their rights restricted upon release -- states may limit anything from gun rights to voting rights. But can they restrict access to government-funded health care systems like Obamacare and Medicaid?

Obamacare for Everyone

Medicaid is designed to provide health care to low-income individuals, and many former inmates qualify. But prior to 2013, many states prohibited former inmates from receiving Medicaid or Medicare coverage. Now under Obamacare, Medicaid can no longer deny coverage based on a criminal conviction.

The Affordable Care Act extended healthcare coverage to people returning home from prison. Not only did Obamacare extend Medicaid coverage to inmates, it also provided coverage to individuals cycling out of prison.

State Systems

While states can no longer deny heath care coverage to former inmates, that doesn't mean they have to make it easy. That said, some states recognize the positive impact access to quality health care can have on former inmates. In 2013, California passed legislation "allowing county workers to help released prisoners enroll in the state's low-income health care program Medi-Cal." And other states have enacted similar programs to increase access to health insurance.

The Los Angeles Times reported that former inmates suffer from mental illness and drug addiction at rates two to three times higher among than the national average, and that former inmates who underwent substance abuse treatment had a 35 percent drop in recidivism. Therefore access to programs like Medicaid and Medi-Cal can not only keep former inmates healthy, but keep them from going back to prison.

If you've been released from prison and are having trouble getting access to government health insurance programs, you may want to talk to an experienced health care attorney near you.

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