Incarceration and Getting Coverage through Maryland Health Connection
If you are currently incarcerated or were recently released from incarceration, you may be able to get free or lower-cost health coverage through Maryland Health Connection, the state’s official health insurance marketplace.
It’s important to know that incarceration doesn’t disqualify you from being eligible for Medicaid, which provides free or low-cost coverage to lower-income people, including inmates. An inmate is considered a person of any age who is “in custody and held involuntarily through operation of law enforcement authorities in a public institution.”
If you are eligible for Medicaid, you may enroll at any time. You may be eligible now even if you weren’t in the past. Medicaid may also help you get needed care more quickly after you’re released.
To enroll through Maryland Health Connection during or after incarceration, you must continue to meet other eligibility requirements, such as being a resident of Maryland and being a U.S. citizen or lawfully present. Some Medicaid benefits are not available to you until after release.
If you are currently incarcerated:
- You may qualify for Medicaid.While Maryland Medicaid does not pay for outpatient services while incarcerated, it may pay for inpatient stays while incarcerated (such as a hospital stay). Medicaid may also help you get needed care more quickly after you’re released.
- You do not qualify to buy a private health plan (called a “qualified health plan”).However, if you’re detained in jail or prison pretrial but haven’t been convicted, you may use Maryland Health Connection to buy a private health insurance plan.
- Incarceration affects Medicare eligibility.Contact Medicare (the program for people with certain disabilities and adults 65 or older) for full details about Medicare benefits (1-800-MEDICARE) and visit my DHR for details. Note: If you turn 65 while incarcerated, you may have certain obligations to ensure coverage after release.
- During your incarceration, you are exempt from the federal requirement to have health coverage, and the penalty.
After release from incarceration:
- You may qualify for full Medicaid benefits.If you meet all the requirements of Medicaid, you may now be eligible for full Medicaid benefits.
- You may enroll in a private health plan within 60 days.After you’re released, you have 60 days to enroll in private health plan through a Special Enrollment Period, even if it’s outside of the annual open enrollment period. Otherwise you will need to wait until the next open enrollment period to sign up (unless you qualify for another Special Enrollment Period).
You may qualify for financial help with your health insurance costs, such as lower monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
- Incarceration affects Medicare eligibility.Contact Medicare (the health insurance program for people with certain disabilities and adults 65 or older) for full details about Medicare benefits (1-800-MEDICARE) and my DHR.
How to Apply for Health Coverage
- Enroll online at MarylandHealthConnection.gov
- Download the free Enroll MHC mobile app for iOS and Android
- Enroll by phone (1-855-642-8572; Deaf and hard of hearing use Relay service). Help is available in more than 200 languages
- Find free, in-person help near you
Get Ready to Apply
Have the following information ready when you apply through MarylandHealthConnection.gov.
Please note that if you are currently incarcerated (and not detained pretrial pending disposition), you should be the only person listed on your application. Spouses or dependents should apply separately.
- Birth dates for each household member applying for coverage
- Social Security numbers or document numbers for each household member applying for coverage, if they have an SSN or other document number
- Employer and income information for everyone in your household (including pay stubs, W-2 forms or tax forms)
- Citizenship or immigration information for anyone applying for coverage
- Information about any job-related health insurance available to your household
- Photo ID, if you’re applying in person