MAY 23, 2005 - Posted at 7:46 a.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - A new $3 fee charged to inmates in the state prison system each time they seek medical care is apparently having its intended effect. It has reduced the number of prisoners making sick-call visits to infirmaries.
Prison officials say the number of who sought medical care or were referred for it dropped by about 25 percent during February and March. The fee was approved by the state Corrections Board in October, and prisoners began paying it on January 15.
The fee is not popular with prisoners or their families. They say it puts an undue burden on inmates, who generally have no way to earn money and can only obtain it from family members.
The prison board began considering a co-pay system last year to help reduce the bogus sick calls among the average of $14,000 being made each month, and to help with the costs of providing health care to 13,600 inmates.