According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 2.2 million people are in prisons and jails. So chances are good that you know somebody who is incarcerated, or has gotten out of jail or prison. Many people who are in prison or jail have physical health, mental health, and oral health needs--and those needs don't go away when they are freed.
Sometimes, people get information while still in prison about how to access medical care--but other times, they don't know what to do! In reality, the choices are very similar to people who have not been incarcerated.
If you are not working, or if your income is low enough, you will be eligible for Medicaid. Apply anytime!
NOTE: If you had Medicaid before you were incarcerated, while you were imprisoned you may have been listed in the Medicaid system as having Medicaid for Incarceration. When you are incarcerated, Medicaid only pays for inpatient hospital expenses. If you are STILL listed in Medicaid's records as being incarcerated, even though you are now free, you may need to call the Medicaid Beneficiary Help Line, (888) 367-6557, in order to tell them you are out of prison, and you should get full Medicaid.
If you are employed, and your employer insurance is affordable, you will need to take your employer insurance. Getting out of prison should give you a 30-day special enrollment period, so be sure to get on the insurance right away, if you are eligible.
If your income, or your family income, is a bit higher, you can sign up for health care on the Marketplace. Getting out of prison entitles you to a 60-day special enrollment period. Don't delay, because if you miss it, you won't be able to get health insurance until the next open enrollment period (November - January)!
If you have a Marketplace plan, and someone in your family becomes incarcerated, you need to report a life change to the Marketplace. People who are incarcerated are not eligible for Marketplace plans.
will i owe a health care penalty for when i was imprisoned?
At the end of the year, if someone in your family was incarcerated, they will qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have health care during that time. For 2015, this was exemption F. Be sure to mark the exemption when you fill out IRS Form 8965.
NOTE: The U.S. government just released more specific rules about the definition of incarceration, and when you are eligible to get health care on the Marketplace. You can read more here.