Do Inmates Have to Pay for Medical Care?
Posted: Nov 09, 2019
If you or a loved one find yourselves in an Idaho county jail, many issues have to be worked out. One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is medical insurance and health care coverage.
Understanding what it means to be incarcerated
When you’re in jail, you’re under government jurisdiction, and the government is quite concerned about issues of terminology. In government terms, the concept of "incarceration" is key.
Under federal rules, being "incarcerated" means you’re serving a sentence in prison. You aren’t considered "incarcerated" if you’re on parole, confined to your home, on probation, or in jail waiting for charges to be filed. You’re only incarcerated if you have actually been convicted of a crime and are serving your prison term.
If you’re officially incarcerated, you cannot enter the general health care marketplace. Instead, you’ll need to rely on the local rules wherever you’re serving your time. If you or someone you love are on the Canyon county jail roster, your health care is subject to Idaho rules.
Idaho state rules: Emergencies
If you have an emergency health situation, such as a heart attack, stroke, sudden loss of vision, or other health issue that demands immediate attention, you don’t need any authorization to get treatment, and you don’t need insurance to cover your care.
If you require a medically necessary procedure that isn’t an emergency, the state of Idaho will pay for your treatment. To qualify as "medically necessary," your condition has to be something that would eventually lead to death if not treated or something that causes you significant discomfort.
Examples of a medical necessity would include treatment for diabetes, schizophrenia, HIV, and tuberculosis. The important thing to know about medically necessary treatment is that you have to apply for medical authorization approval before you get treatment.
Medical needs (not always necessary)
Medical needs under Idaho law include anything that affect quality of life in the long term but aren’t considered necessary. These include diagnostic testing, hormone therapy, dental prosthetics, and minor surgeries.
These also require a medical authorization, and you’re less likely to get approval for these types of treatments.
Medical needs with limited value
Medical needs with limited value are treatments that generally fall into the category of "medical," but which the state deems to be of little or no real value. Examples include acne medications, vitamin supplements, sleep aids, or treatment for issues like dry skin or foot problems.
To get these treatments in Canyon County, Idaho, you’ll need a medical authorization form and a referral from a medical professional. The referral must explain exactly why the treatment is necessary, and a high percentage of these treatments are rejected.
Get the health care you need
If you find yourself in jail but not officially "incarcerated," things can get tricky. If there’s a high likelihood you’ll be convicted, it’s not worth signing up on the health care exchange. Once you’ve been convicted and have to serve your sentence, you’re health care exchange policy won’t be valid.
If there’s a good chance you won’t be convicted, or if you’re about to be released from jail before the annual sign-up period on the health care exchange, your best bet is cheap short term health insurance. This ensures you’re covered during any interim period.
Stand up for your rights
Health care for those in prison has always been an issue. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having access to quality medical care are crucial to maximize an inmate’s chances of finding work after jail and moving smoothly back into the community. If you have any concern about your coverage, don’t hesitate to get short-term coverage. It’ll be one worry off your plate during an otherwise difficult time.
A freelance writer with a BA in English from Sarah Lawrence College.