Calif., Other States Charge Inmates Copayments for Medical Services
Correctional facility inmates in California and other states sometimes face copayments from a few dollars to as high as $100 when receiving care, according to report by New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, Kaiser Health News reports.
According to the report, at least 35 states -- including California -- permit copays and other fees for health services at state prisons or county jails.
Lauren-Brooke Eisen, author of the report and senior counsel at the Brennan Center's justice program, said that some states also require copays for emergency services and hospitalizations.
Eisen said, "It's understandable why jurisdictions need to increase their revenue," adding, "From a public policy standpoint, however, the fees can serve as a deterrent to getting care."
According to the report, about 80% of inmates are low-income. Their copays typically are paid using their commissary accounts, which often are funded by family members and prison jobs.
According to KHN, fees can deter such inmates from seeking routine services, as well as care for chronic conditions and communicable diseases (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 9/29).
In California, medical fees vary by type of facility. For example:
- County or city jails can charge $3 per inmate-initiated visit; and
- State facilities can charge $5 per inmate-initiated visit.
At both types of facilities, fees are charged to an inmate's personal account, but there is no charge if the account is empty (Brennan Center for Justice report, September 2015).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.