Capitol Alert

Medical visits to be free for California prison inmates as $5 copays are dropped

A condemned inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in August 2016. The prison’s former chief psychiatrist received an $822,000 settlement, alleging he experienced retaliation after warning about risk in a mental health plan.
A condemned inmate is led out of his east block cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in August 2016. The prison’s former chief psychiatrist received an $822,000 settlement, alleging he experienced retaliation after warning about risk in a mental health plan. AP file

Starting in March, California inmates will no longer need to make copayments when they go in for medical help.

The payments are no longer necessary, as they offer “minimal fiscal benefit” and “may hinder patients from seeking care,” according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Correctional Health Care Services department.

“Copayments may hinder patients from seeking care for health issues which, without early detection and intervention, may become exacerbated, resulting in decreased treatment efficacy and/or increased treatment cost,” the health services department said in a news release.

An internal review found that the state collected $460,000 in copayments from over 220,000 medical and dental visits in the previous fiscal year.

Since 1994, the state corrections department has been allowed to charge $5 every time an inmate comes forward for a medical or dental visit. The fee is added to the inmate’s prison account, and if the inmate has no available money, there is no charge. Inmates do not provide copayments when they go in for mental health services.

On March 1, the state will stop copayment charges for medical and dental services, as well as charges for dental prosthetic appliances.

In December, Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, submitted a bill that would have barred the corrections department from collecting medical copayments.

Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.

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