Senate Approves Nozzolio Bill Requiring Inmate Medical Copayments

Michael F. Nozzolio

April 11, 2005

Albany – Continuing his fight to protect the taxpayers of New York, State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R-Fayette), Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, today announced that the Senate has adopted legislation (S.1324) he is sponsoring requiring inmates to make co-payments for health care.

"There is no way to justify handing convicted criminals free health care while law-abiding taxpayers are required to make co-payments for health services. As Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, I firmly believe we must do everything possible to reduce this burdensome cost to New York State taxpayers,” said Senator Nozzolio. “For eight years now, the Senate has approved this measure. The time is long overdue for the Assembly to act and adopt this legislation so that we can see it enacted into law.”

The measure has been approved by the Senate each year since 1997, and each year, the Assembly has failed to act on the bill.

Nozzolio's legislation would require inmates in New York State's correctional facilities to make a seven dollar co-payment for medical treatment. The proposed co-payment of seven dollars, virtually the same amount that New York State public employees pay would hold inmates partially responsible for their own health care expenses. The co-payment plan will also provide a revenue source to address increasing costs for inmate medical care.

"Clearly no inmate will be denied necessary or needed medical care based on his or her inability to pay. Their accounts may be debited and it may be collected over a span of time," added Senator Nozzolio.

Under the legislation, inmates would be required to sign a log at the time of their visit. Each medical co-payment will then be posted to the inmate’s account and each inmate will receive an account statement at the end of each month. No inmate will be refused treatment for lack of ability to pay co-payment charges.

Senator Nozzolio added that New York currently spends approximately $121 million each year on prison health services (almost $2,000 per inmate). Instituting a co-payment on inmates for medical treatment will serve to reduce the excessive and non-emergency medical visits to health care providers.

New York State's correctional facilities receive around one million sick calls per year. This legislation is estimated to result in a $7 million savings for New York State.

A number of other States, including California, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arizona, Minnesota and Nevada have enacted medical co-payments for inmate medical services. These programs have worked with great success. In some states, the abuses in the number of sick-call visits by inmates have been reduced by 76%.

"This measure will bring justice to both the criminals who thumb their noses at the law and to the law-abiding citizens struggling to pay for their own health care," concluded Nozzolio.