Dear Prison Society Supporters:
Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform (PfCJR) sent a letter this week to DOC Acting Secretary George Little urging the $5 medical copay for incarcerated individuals be eliminated. “The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections did the right thing when they suspended the copay during the height of the COVID pandemic, and they can do it again,” said Dr. Zane Kaleem, Pennsylvania Liaison at PfCJR. We couldn’t agree more.
Medical copays have always compromised the health of incarcerated people, even when there wasn’t a pandemic raging. Five dollars for a medical visit is a barrier for incarcerated people, who depend on their families and meager prison wages for what little money they have. In Pennsylvania, prison jobs pay between $0.19 and $0.51 an hour. Incarcerated people already have to stretch their scant earnings to cover phone calls home, toiletries, extra clothes and blankets, and supplemental food from the commissary.
In an accompanying op-ed in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, Kaleem points out that eliminating copays also saves taxpayer money in the long run, by increasing access to care that can prevent costly complications of chronic diseases like diabetes.
It’s time to end a policy that puts basic health care out of reach for people in prisons, jeopardizes public health, and ultimately increases the cost of care. The Prison Society has been partnering with FAMM to work to permanently eliminate the medical copay in state prisons—sending a joint letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) in March and meeting with lawmakers from the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, Women’s Health Caucus, and Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus last month. We are pleased to welcome Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform as a new partner in our campaign to end the copay.