How to Apply for Pennsylvania Low Income Health Insurance

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Pennsylvania's state-run Medicaid plan, referred to as Medical Assistance, offers health insurance for those with low incomes. This program covered 2.18 million Pennsylvania residents as of 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. The state offers various methods to apply for Medicaid – online, by mail, or in person at your local county assistance office. For those low-income Pennsylvania residents whose income is too high for Medicaid, the state also offers the adultBasic and Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Go to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for Social Services (COMPASS) website to see if you qualify for Pennsylvania Medicaid. Click “Get Started” to begin. You can also download and print a paper application, complete it and mail it to your local county assistance office.

Answer questions on the COMPASS website about your age, income and health. You answer a set of questions for you and each of the members of your family you want to cover. The system analyzes whether you are eligible for Medicaid, among other programs.

Click “Apply” on the COMPASS site to apply for Medicaid benefits. The state will make a decision and notify you within 30 days. If approved, coverage will start on the date of the application. You may receive retroactive coverage going back three months if you had medical expenses

Visit your county assistance office (see Resources) to apply in person if you do not have Internet access or need help filling out the application. If you have any questions about the Medicaid application, call 1-800-692-7462.

Apply for the adultBasic (for adults) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (for children) if your income disqualifies you from receiving Medicaid. You can apply for both programs through the COMPASS website. The Children’s Health Insurance Program also takes applications by phone at 1-800-986-KIDS or mail.


  • Due to limited funding, adultBasic usually has a wait list.