HARRISBURG – Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) issued the following statement in response to the Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel’s decision to indefinitely suspend medical co-pays for incarcerated people:
“As chair of the bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus and a member of the Pennsylvania Prison Society Board, I have been actively working to permanently eliminate medical co-pays for incarcerated individuals. I am pleased with Secretary Wetzel’s suspension, and I will continue advocating to stop co-pays permanently.
“Throughout the past year, we have been reminded of the impact a prison outbreak can have on community spread of a contagious disease or illness. Especially now, it seems foolish to spend more in administrative costs to collect a $5 co-pay that often prevents people from seeking the care they need.
“Inmates work for less than 45 cents an hour and must pay for necessities like over-the-counter medicine, clothes, shoes and phone calls. With the isolation from loved ones that they experience, it is easy to understand why someone who is incarcerated would choose to talk with a spouse or other family member instead of addressing what he or she thinks is a minor medical problem.
“In addition to the risk medical co-pays pose to DOC staff – and subsequently the community – they require increased administrative work and accounted for less than half a percent of the DOC budget. From all angles, the smartest option is to permanently eliminate medical co-pays for people who are incarcerated.”
CONTACT: Katrina Hanna, 717-787-1463