CoPay for Prisoners

I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. It is a beautiful community. I love the small-town feel and the safety and security that comes from living in such a pristine place.

However, my home-town is not perfect, and sometimes in an attempt to do something that sounds good and reasonable, we harm the very people we are trying to help.

The following recent article in our local paper is a case in point. (Here is a link to the article I am referencing in this post.)

In an attempt to cut down on the frivolous visits by prison inmates to medical staff, our county prison has raised the copay for such visits for inmates from $5 to $25. Their copay for prescription drugs was raised from $1.50 to $10. However, the officials who made the change said no one will be denied medical care because they cannot pay. As a comparison, the county adjacent to my county is a metropolitan area. In their county jails, the copay is $3 and prescriptions are $1.

On the surface, many law abiding people think this change is good because, after all, they are prisoners and criminals and deserve to be treated as such. (These same people think it is a good idea to drug test welfare recipients without realizing the ripple affects such a test would have.)

Well, here are just a few of the problems I have with this charge:

  1. I seriously doubt many prisoners are faking illnesses. Yes, there are some, but I am not convinced the problem is as bad as they are making out. (I have friends and parishioners who have been in our local jail for one reason or another. I am basing my doubts on their experiences in the county jail.)
  2. This charge puts a hardship, not on the prisoners, but on their families on the outside. A prisoner does not have $25. The families of the prisoners who are already disadvantaged (and innocent) are the ones that will have to pay the money when their loved one gets sick. I know many people who cannot afford the extra expense this will cause. These families will spend the $25 on this medical expense and then turn to our church to help pay rent and utility bills.
  3. I can give you examples of where adequate health care was not given prisoners in a timely manner. Here are two that I know first hand: (1) A guy was in prison for 60 days for falling behind on his child support. During that time he developed an abscessed tooth. He complained to the prison officials, but they refused to allow him to go see the nurse. Several days went by and it kept getting worse. By the time they finally allowed him to see the nurse they had to rush him to the emergency room. The doctors at the emergency room said he could have died from the poison the affected tooth was putting into his blood stream. If he would have died while he was in the prisons care, how much of taxpayers money would have been spent to settle the lawsuit? (2) Another guy was attacked by a person in his neighborhood and hit over the head with a metal pipe. Both people were arrested. Instead of taking this guy to the hospital, they took him to jail where his eye kept getting bigger and bigger. Then, instead of treating him, they sent him home. This guy, and the prisoners who witnessed what took place inside the prison, are convinced they prison sent him home so they would not have to treat his injury. His family took him to the emergency room where they did emergency surgery to save his eyesight.
  4. Prisoners, regardless of their crime, are still human beings and need to be treated as such.
  5. The medical staff in the prison are on salary (or hourly wages) and get paid the same regardless of how many prisoners/patients they see in a day. There is an expense in medications and prescriptions, but it seems to me that would be easy to control. The extra expense comes from having to transport prisoners to the emergency room because they were not treated in a timely manner while in custody.
  6. The overall savings to the county this increase in copay will result in is minimal compared to the political capital those who made this decision will receive.

These kinds of issues, on the surface, make some people feel good, but in reality, they harm the wrong people and do nothing to solve the problem of crime, healthcare, or overcrowding in prison.

Please understand, I think there should be some sort of copay for prisoners, I just think this is a little to high and will cause hardships on the wrong people.

What do you think?

About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider, that order.
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