State Considers Passing Medical Costs on to Inmates

MARCH 11, 2004 - Posted at 7:44 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - State prison officials are considering charging inmates a minimal fee when the inmates ask to see doctors, a move the state hopes will deter frivolous medical requests from inmates.

Several states already charge fees for requested medical visits.  Prison officials say a pilot program in Arkansas has proven successful.

A committee appointed by the state prison board to study the idea plans to make recommendations to the full board next month.

Under a pilot program, Arkansas charges a $3 co-payment to inmates in its short-term lock-ups.  In the year since the pilot program began, sick calls among the inmates have dropped 48 percent.

Inmates who cannot afford a co-payment are not charged.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)