Capitol Alert

California jail inmates promised free medical visits under new law banning co-pays

California’s jails and prisons will soon offer free medical visits for all inmates, under a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 45, which will take effect at the start of 2020, will bar city and county jails from charging inmates a copayment in order for them to see a doctor or dentist. It will also prevent those jails from charging a fee for equipment or supplies that are medically necessary to an incarcerated person.

The new law also applies to the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which announced earlier this year it would no longer charge a $5 co-pay. Since 1994, the state corrections department had been able to charge $5 each time an inmate came in for a medical or dental visit. The fee would be added to the inmate’s prison account, and if the inmate had no available funds, there would be no charge.

Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, authored the proposal and said it will greatly benefit prisoners who make little money while serving out their sentences.

“Our prison system is based off of exploitation of labor, and these incarcerated individuals make pennies on the hour,” Stone said in a statement. “An incarcerated individual will have to work over 60 hours while making 8 cents an hour to be able to afford a medical visit. AB 45 will remove this barrier and ensure that incarcerated individuals receive the care that they deserve.”

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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.