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Should inmates pay healthcare co-pays?

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

There is a push in Erie County government to have inmates pay part of their medical costs while behind bars.

An audit from county Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw says the county spends $8 million each year on inmate health care and he says that's too high. Some legislators say the county should be able to charge a co-pay on that medical care.

The problem is that Albany doesn't allow it. So state legislators are being asked to allow the county to charge those co-pays while there is pending legislation to allow every county to do so.

"That's certainly an issue and there are ways that indigent people pay for things," said Joseph Lorigo, Majority Leader of the Erie County Legislature.

"But, right now, they can have their accounts stocked so they can go to the commissary and buy candy and other items like that. If they can pay for those things, I think they can pay for medical co-pays as well."

The comptroller's audit suggests the county might be able to save $300,000 a year with the co-pays. The measure goes to the Finance and Management Committee for a discussion on the proposal on Thursday and on the request to Albany to allow the co-pays.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.