For people earning 14-63 cents an hour in prison (many earn nothing at all for their work), a typical $2-5 copay is the equivalent of charging a free-world worker $200 or $500 for a medical visit.
We go to the Prison Policy Initiative for a study on prison copays. Below are excerpts.
In 2017, only eight states did not charge medical copays for incarcerated people: Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming.
This study reviewed each state’s policy on the topic and any temporary changes they’ve made during COVID-19.
Since 2017, California and Illinois have eliminated medical copays.
For the last two years, Virginia has suspended medical copays as part of a pilot program.
Texas reduced its exorbitant $100 yearly health care fee to a less atrocious, but still out-of-reach, $13.55 per-visit fee.
Idaho also reduced its medical copays in prison from $5 to $3 in 2018.
Twenty-eight states modified their policies during the first few months of the pandemic, and, ultimately, all but one state — Nevada — temporarily changed their policies.
Most states that have modified their copay policies during the pandemic only suspended copays for respiratory, flu-related, or COVID-19 symptoms. But these limitations ignore the facts that not all COVID-19 symptoms fall within these vague categories, and many people don’t display symptoms at all.
Five states — Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, and Texas — rolled back their COVID-19 copay modifications at some point during the pandemic.
Alabama went from suspending all copays to reinstating them for all cases in December 2020.
Minnesota and Texas had modified copays to accommodate people with COVID-19 symptoms, but reinstated all copays in December 2020 and September 2021, respectively. We confirmed that 22 states continue to operate with their COVID-19 copay policy changes in place.
Read the whole study here.
Above: A graphic depicting state prison co-pays.