Health reform – coverage for prisoners not included

I currently face incarceration for a drunk driving incident in Wisconsin and will be serving up to a year or more in jail. I currently pay $720 a month for my premiums for health coverage! Who takes care of my health insurance while in jail/prison? What if I drop my coverage while in jail?


Joe in Wisconsin

Dear Joe in Wisconsin,

While you are in prison, the state or federal government is responsible for your medical care.  If it is a state prison, then the state pays; if it is a federal prison, then the federal government pays.   You may have heard of Medicaid coverage for prisoners; some states that are “expanding” Medicaid are enrolling prisoners in the program. Wisconsin is not one of these states, however.

Therefore, it would not make sense for you to continue your private plan while you are in jail.  When you are released, it may or may not be open enrollment for health insurance.  If it is not open enrollment, you will still be able to buy a plan since you will be losing eligibility for the state/federal coverage.  You will need to give that as your reason for needing coverage, if you are released and it is not open enrollment season.

Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.