Transitions Clinic Network (TCN) hosts a monthly reentry health-focused Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) column. This column is a space where we can answer questions regarding healthcare in reentry. Our goal is to provide information and empower individuals to prepare them for healthy reentry. In our last column, we talked about Me-di-Cal, the public health insurance system in California. For this column, we will share some tips and tricks on applying for Medi-Cal and how to use it once released!
How do I apply for Medi-Cal before I leave prison?
Each CDCR institution has a team of social workers from the Transitional Case Management Program (TCMP) who should come see you when you’re 30-90 days from release. They will help sign you up for Medi-Cal. Make sure that you sign the paperwork before you leave! If you are within 30 days of release and have not seen a TCMP worker yet, submit a Request for Interview (Form #22).
Are there other types of health benefits I may be eligible for?
People who are members of a federally recognized tribe or affiliated with the Native American community may be eligible for Indian Health Services. Veterans who served in the active military, naval, or air service may be eligible for Veterans Administration benefits. Ask the TCMP worker about your eligibility for these services. They will also offer to help you apply, if eligible.
Why does Medi-Cal ask for an address on the application?
Medi-Cal coverage is coun-ty specific. When you are completing an application for Medi-Cal, apply for health insurance in your county of return (where you plan to live and receive medical treatment).
Once your Medi-Cal application is approved, they will mail a Benefits Identification Card to the address you listed on your Medi-Cal application. Bring this card with you to your medical appointment in the community because it shows proof of Medi-Cal coverage. You can also use this card to apply for a free cell phone (known as an Obama phone in the community).
PLEASE NOTE: Even if your Medi-Cal is approved and you received a Benefits Identification Card while incarcerated, your Medi-Cal will not [be] active yet. (See next question.)
I applied for Medi-Cal while incarcerated and just got released to the community. Am I good to go?
Not quite! Medi-Cal needs to be “activated” after you are released.
Even if you got approved for Medi-Cal while incarcerated and received a Benefits Identification Card, they will not turn on (activate) your Medi-Cal until you are physically out of the prison. To do this, you must call or visit your local Medi-Cal office to activate your insurance once you’re released. You may need to bring a letter of release stating that you are no longer incarcerated. Do this step as soon as you are released! Activating Medi-Cal may take some time, so you want to be sure to do it early before you run out of medications.
Need help finding a Medi-Cal office or community health clinic near you?
You can call the TCN Reentry Health Hotline at (510) 606-6400. (We accept collect calls from CDCR.)
My Medi-Cal application was completed in the wrong county. Now what?
Contact the Medi-Cal of-fice in the county where you were enrolled as soon as possible. Let them know you are out and need to transfer your Medi-Cal to another county.
If you want to be seen at a specific clinic, you can also ask the clinic staff if they have “eligibility workers” or someone who helps patients with insurance issues.
You can also contact the Medi-Cal Ombudsman office at 888-452-8609 for assistance.
The transfer process can take up to 30 days, so it’s best to do it as soon as you find out that you’re moving or your benefits were set up in the wrong county.
Oh no! I just found out that I’m being released soon and never got to meet with TCMP to complete an application for Medi-Cal. What should I do?
Don’t worry. You can apply for Medi-Cal when you’re released. You can apply over the phone, on the internet, or in person at your local Me-di-Cal office. If there is a clinic you’re interested in getting care at, call the clinic and see if they [have] eligibility workers to help you with the Medi-Cal application process.
For more information on how to apply for Medi-Cal or any other questions related to healthcare and reentry, give us a call at (510) 606-6400.
We are not the Medi-Cal Office and cannot do Medi-Cal applications for you, but we can give you more information to point you in the right direction.
We’re thrilled to be able to communicate with the incarcerated community. We will be talking about many different topics, such as health insurance, MAT (medication-assisted treatment), prevention and treatment for Hepatitis C, HIV, defining and finding gen-der-affirming care, managing chronic conditions, and much more.
We want to answer YOUR questions. If you have health-care-related questions about reentry, feel free to write us:
TCNinfo@ucsf.edu Mailing Address: Transitions Clinic Network 2401 Keith Street
San Francisco, CA 94124
We do accept collect calls from CDCR. We are open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.
TCN is a network of community health clinics that serve returning community members. TCN clinic programs are led by Community Health Workers (CHWs) with lived experience of incarceration and reentry and support people with their healthcare and reentry needs.