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Does Medicare still give you coverage if you are in jail?

Prisons are required to provide free healthcare coverage for the incarcerated, but you may still want to keep up with your Medicare payments.

Does Medicare provide coverage in jail?

For recipients of Medicare, being incarcerated for even a brief period of time can raise some major questions about coverage. Do you need to health insurance to get treatment in prison, and can you retain coverage from Medicare while incarcerated?

By law, all federal and county prisons have to provide medical care and prescriptions as required by prisoners. The cost for the service, in almost all cases, is covered by the institution.

In fact Medicare cannot legally use to pay for healthcare if the recipient of the treatment is not legally obliged to pay for it. As prisoners get health coverage as standard, Medicare is not required to pay for healthcare while in prison.

However, advocacy group Medicare Interactive advises that claimants remain enrolled in Medicare while in prison to avoid late enrolment penalties and coverage gaps when you are released. If you wait until you are released and try to reenrol, you may be hit with far higher monthly premiums.

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Do I need to pay for Part A and Part B?

Medicare is the umbrella term for a series of healthcare policies that include varies types of treatment, service and pharmaceuticals. By far the most widely used are Part A and Part B, and there is one key difference between the two.

The vast majority of Medicare recipients pay nothing for Part A, gaining eligibility for free by dint of their earnings. Part B, on the other hand, requires that beneficiaries pay a monthly premium. In 2023 the average monthly amount is $164.90.

Recipients of Part B coverage are often eligible for Social Security retirement benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which can be used to automatically cover the cost of Medicare coverage. However once you are convicted of a crime, or are incarcerated for 30 days, benefits from Social Security will stop.

If you want to remain enrolled with Medicare while incarcerated you will need to set up a direct payment within 30 days of the conviction. You can do this by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

You may also want to consider signing up with a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), which offer a variety of funding schedules to keep you enrolled.

If you are unable to keep paying for Medicare Part B then you should be sure to actively withdraw from the program, rather than being automatically disenrolled after failing to pay the monthly premiums. You can be charged penalty fines for failing to keep up to date with policy payments, and these charges will be levied against you if you re-enrol with Part B after being released.


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