Despite a record number of new COVID-19 cases in prisons this month, some state departments of correction are already starting to roll back necessary suspensions of medical co-pays. Prior to the pandemic, most prison systems charged incarcerated people between $2 and $5 for each medical appointment — a fee that can make attaining medical care burdensome or impossible. In March, we found that many states had relaxed these policies in response to the pandemic, either suspending all medical co-pays, or suspending those for respiratory or flu-like symptoms. But in a follow-up survey of medical co-pay policies, we found that since March, three states have made their policies more restrictive in the middle of the pandemic.
Arkansas, Idaho, and Minnesota had previously suspended all co-pays as of March, but have since reinstated co-pays for non-flu-like symptoms. They are now among 29 states that currently suspend co-pays only for visits involving respiratory, flu-related, or COVID-19 symptoms — a policy that discourages many from seeking treatment. Even worse, Nevada has continued to charge co-pays throughout the pandemic, regardless of symptoms.
Meanwhile, three states have improved their policies since March: New Jersey has suspended all medical co-pays, and Delaware and Hawaii suspended co-pays for those with flu-like symptoms.