Why should I get health care coverage (health insurance)?

First, everyone needs health care at some point in life. If you have health care coverage, you can access hospitals and medical services when you need them. Most health insurance will cover mental health and substance abuse treatment too.[1526] Second, for almost everyone living in the U.S., it’s now required by law that you have adequate health care coverage. (There are exceptions, explained on PG. 463).[1527]

While you’re incarcerated, the jail or prison is responsible for providing you with essential health care, including mental health services. You have a constitutional right to treatment while in jail or prison.[1528] Once you have a release date, you should ensure that you have health care coverage in place for when you get out.


Health Care Plan:

Brief Breakdown of Plan:

Who Qualifies:

Covered California

Covered California is the state’s marketplace to sign up for affordable health care

CA residents or LPRs who are 18 or older, and are not currently incarcerated (see more on PG. 461)


Medi-Cal offers free or low-cost health care for people who have limited income

CA residents or LPRs who have limited income (at or below 138% of FPL (see more on PG. 466)


Medicare provides health care for elderly or disabled people. Medicare has 4 parts (A-D).

U.S. citizens or Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) who are 65 or older, or have a disability, or have permanent kidney failure (see more on PG. 471)

  1. 1526

    Mental Health & Substance Abuse Coverage, HealthCare.gov, https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/mental-health-substance-abuse-coverage/.

  2. 1527

    Affordable Care Act, http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/rights/law/index.html. Read information about the ACA: http://files.medi-cal.ca.gov/pubsdoco/aca/aca_home.asp. See also https://www.blueshieldca.com/bsca/documents/about-blue-shield/health-reform/COVEREDCA_FAQs_092413.pdf.

  3. 1528

    Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976); Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910, 1928 (2011) (“Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons. Respect for that dignity animates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment . . . A prison that deprives prisoners basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society.”); see also Know Your Rights: Medical, Dental, and Mental Healthcare, ACLU National Prison Project, https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/know_your_rights_--_medical_mental_health_and_dental_july_2012.pdf.