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How to Enroll in Medicare if You’re Incarcerated

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If you turn 65 when living in prison or any other type of correctional institution, you face much the same predicament for Part B enrollment as nonworking Americans living abroad . So, you can either

  • Enroll in Part B during your initial enrollment period and pay monthly premiums, even though you can’t use Medicare services while incarcerated.

  • Face permanent late penalties when you’re released and want to sign up for Part B.

Similarly, if you’re imprisoned after age 65 and already enrolled in Medicare, you’re expected to continue paying the premiums to avoid penalties when you come out.

Of course, if you have no income — and imprisonment makes you ineligible for Social Security payments — how can you pay Part B premiums while serving time? But the law ignores this practical predicament.

So unless someone else can continue to pay your premiums for the duration, you’ll most likely get penalties in the future. However, if you continue to be covered by insurance from your spouse’s active employment, you may be able to avoid penalties.

Part D drug coverage has different rules. You can’t use this coverage while in prison, but you’re entitled to a special enrollment period after your release to enroll in a Part D drug plan without penalty.

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