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It often seems like felons miss out on many of the social benefits and privileges others take for granted. But despite their past criminal record, an ex-convict has all of the same basic human needs as anyone else! So it stands to reason that they should be eligible for at least some consideration, right?

Especially when it comes to essential health care and insurance, no person should be denied access. Our health is all we have; we need access to not only routine health care but coverage for more serious situations, too. Sometimes getting insurance as a felon can be tricky, so this post will answer the question “can felons get Medicaid.”

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Can Felons Get Medicaid? Answered!

What is Medicaid Exactly?

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page before proceeding. Medicaid is health insurance; we understand that part. It’s funded by the federal government but managed by the individual states. Medicaid, along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (or CHIP) offer very low-cost or, in some cases, free health insurance coverage. Sounds good so far, right?

The primary intention is to ensure that low-income persons have access to regular coverage. When we think of Medicaid we sometimes tend to think of elderly persons or persons who are disabled. But in fact many perfectly healthy people qualify, even felons! Eligibility for Medicaid is not dependent on income, nor age or physical wellness.

That said–as with many issues, again we must stress that every state is different, and therefore rules differ depending on where you reside when you apply for Medicaid. We encourage readers to check your state’s website.

Why Should Felons Want Medicaid?

It’s cheap! No, seriously, health insurance premiums can be very expensive for the average person, and especially for many ex-convicts because they may be making less than the average annual income. Medicaid premiums are generally less than $100 per month, and potentially even lower if a person has no income whatsoever. Medicaid’s lower cost is a good reason for anyone to consider it. Most doctors and hospitals accept Medicaid, too, so that’s a definite bonus.

The Affordable Care Act currently establishes the criteria that millions of felons and ex-convicts who are on parole/probation status can be insured, in large part thanks to Medicaid. In other words, felons were in mind when the program was designed.

How Do Felons Qualify for Medicaid?

Eligibility for Medicaid boils down mainly to your household income. Being pregnant, elderly, disabled, or being responsible for welfare of others can also be a fast track to Medicaid, but we won’t delve much into special cases. Our focus is related to felons obtaining Medicaid, so let’s talk qualification…

Depending on the state you live in, you might or might not qualify based on income. But apply anyhow. States usually also offer “alternatives” to Medicaid, so get your application in the system. And if you happen to be a low income ex-felon AND you suffer from a disability, are pregnant, or have young or elderly dependents, then this increases your odds of qualification. So go ahead and apply; you may get turned down, but if you never apply, you are automatically turned down!

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When Should You Apply?

If you don’t have insurance, you should apply as soon as possible. Both Medicaid and the CHIP programs are open for enrollment year round.

Did you know, a felon can actually go ahead and apply for Medicaid insurance while they’re still serving their sentence? (It cannot actually be used during that period, but at least you can get the ball rolling. That way you’ll be insured on that wonderful day when you finally step foot outside the prison as a free individual once again). It doesn’t matter if you stay in some temporary “halfway house” living situation or even if you’re looking to participate in a society “re-entry program.” It’s vital to have health insurance, and in fact it’s the law. Everyone need to be insured.

So long story short, the good news is that a felony background will not keep you from getting health coverage from Medicaid.

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Why Does the Government Want Felons to Get Medicaid?

Why the concern for ex-cons? Because many suffer from ill health due to their long periods of incarceration. Offering health care can assist them in regaining their well-being and thus being fully employable again. The unfortunate alternative, as some felons see it, is a return to criminal activities. Thus it behooves the government and society itself to help those in need, until they regain their own footing. There’s no shame in needing a boost, and the federal government provides that for a reason.

The obvious fact is that a healthy person has a better chance of employment than a sick one. An uninsured person is more likely to remain sick than an insured one. And an unemployed person is more likely to risk an illegal endeavor to gain some income. So medical coverage for ex-cons makes sense…especially if those persons were drug addicts or suffered from mental illness. In those particular cases, medical treatment is all the more vital. The easier it is for them to get help, the greater their chances of staying out of prison.

Another factor researchers pointed out–prisons are breeding grounds for disease. So what happens when prisoners who’ve been exposed to higher-than-average rates of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and tuberculosis are released? You guessed it; those released prisoners are now potentially exposing others on the outside. So it is common sense to get those ex-prisoners examined and treated, for the health of their new neighbors!

Studies have noted a “disproportionately high” rate of imprisonment for minority individuals, as well as higher rates of certain diseases within their respective communities. Is there are correlation? Do persons from these groups get locked up, get sick, then bring disease back to their former neighborhoods in higher-than-average rates? Unfortunately, it is a real possibility and it’s something that’s being studied in order correct this potentially systemic issue.

In the meantime, in an effort to minimize very costly trips to emergency rooms around the nation, Medicaid’s approach is to offer insurance for persons to visit primary care professionals before their issues become emergencies. This makes sense from both humanitarian and long term economic standpoints.

Source: http://www.pewtrusts.org

But not all states agree with Medicaid’s current framework and in some cases they limit eligibility or even try to “opt out” of Medicaid’s latest reforms. This is why it is crucial to review your state’s local policies, not just the federal ones.

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Summary

We hope this article cleared up the question of “can a felon go get Medicaid?” Yes, they can get it so long as they meet their individual requirements within their state. It’s not automatic, but being a felon has little bearing in and of itself. Just the opposite, actually.

This is one instance where the federal government took the time to actually look out for the interests of those who’ve been incarcerated, in order to help minimize the odds that those persons will land back in jail. So read up about your state requirements and apply!

Felony Expungement – In a number of states it is possible to have your felony conviction either expunged or sealed. Imagine having your record swiped clean! Learn more here.