Skyrocketing costs of healthcare and prescription drugs tend to bring sad stories to the surface. We hear and read heartbreaking stories about people in financial straits, who must make decisions regarding food or medicine, rent payments or medical bills.
Yet, we hear very little about the plight of prisoners. When it comes to healthcare for Michigan inmates, it stinks!
Here’s the picture in a nutshell.
If a Michigan inmate can get a job (many have been eliminated), he or she will likely earn between 75 cents and $3 a day. Not an hour…a day! Keep in mind that many of the 39,000 people in our state prison system are unemployed, or work only part-time.
What little money they have is often spent on personal hygiene items, such as soap and deodorant; or, on food. Food may sound like a luxury to you, but you should know that Michigan spends less than a dollar per meal for our prisoners. And, even though prisoner wages haven’t been increased in 25 years or so, prices keep going up at the prison store.
Now, here’s the kicker. The state charges a $5 co-pay for every healthcare visit in prison. That could be a week's wages. It’s time for our legislature to abolish this ridiculous practice.
It’s happening in other states. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation eliminated medical co-pays, citing public health concerns. Says Eric Henderson, Policy Director with Initiate Justice: Co-pays are dangerous barriers to healthcare access that force incarcerated people into a risky waiting game and ultimately undermine public health throughout the state.
Kay Perry, MI-CURE Director, points out in her monthly newsletter that individuals often delay seeing a doctor and may wait until the condition escalates to an emergency, or until the cost of treatment exceeds the cost of early care.
Then there’s the ripple effect.
A prisoner chooses soap or snacks over medical co-pay, and as a result gets sicker…and as a result threatens the health of other prisoners with whom he or she come into contact.
There’s no good reason to charge medical co-pay in prison.
There’s every good reason to discontinue the practice.
As with Mark Twain’s observation about the weather, we keep complaining about it, and that’s all. We do nothing about it.
That’s gotta change. please go to the Michigan Legislature website, find the names of your State Representative and State Senator, jot down their email addresses, and forward the link to this blog site. Add your own comment. You’re the voter. They’ll listen.
Enough is enough.