|© 2005 www.nebraskapen.org||Last Updated: 10/15/2005|
What would Warden Brubaker think of the proposed medical co-payment bill for prisoners (LB 537)? As the scene in the famous prison movie shows when the new Warden discovers that the prison doctor is charging inmates injured in the collapse of the barracks roof for morphine to ease their pain, Brubaker immediately fired that doctor and the whole idea of charging inmates for needed medical care. The future of medical care for Nebraska inmates faces the same fate as the inmate who refused a shot of morphine because he could not afford the three dollars the prison doctor was charging.
The immediate result of such co-payments as prescribed in LB 537 would be that those in the greatest need of treatment would most likely go without it. Prisoners would rather send that precious ten dollar medical fee out to help support their families. The vast majority of Nebraska inmates only earn $1.21 per day. This bill would cost the suffering prisoner nearly half of a month's wages just to go to sick call. This would likely result in a minor medical condition turning into something very serious.
Imagine the prisoner who is working hard to provide all he or she can for their families, or paying off restitution. Then one night that prisoner is suddenly suffering from severe pain from their appendix. Rather than trying to go to the clinic, the prisoner may try to wait out the pain, thinking their family more important than their own health or comfort.
Then in the middle of the night, the appendix bursts. Yet the prisoner still refuses to call out for medical help. Maybe by morning, the problem has died away, and so too the prisoner! It would seem that if LB 537 is passed, Nebraska would have more than one method of execution, no matter what the Unicameral may say on the subject.
Passage and adoption of LB 537's ten dollar co-payments for delivery of health care would immediately result in a law suit being filed filed by inmates who work for private industry and have so-called "Maintenance" fees averaging $125-$200 per month deducted from their pay. Would the courts really allow the Dept. of Corrections to double-bill these inmates who pay nearly half a million dollars a year to the state already for what amounts to room and board?
Is it to reduce health care costs? Or is it really designed to cut down on the number of prisoners seeking medical attention? It does seem to be an attempt to reduce the number of inmates the already over-taxed and under paid medical line staff see every day. Instead of doing the right thing and hiring adequate staff and paying them the wages they deserve, the DCS seems to feel it more prudent to impede access to health care by making it unaffordable for inmates. Resulting in more severe medical problems later on.
Like the inmate who recently was told he needed an operation on a valve in his heart. Since he was getting out in a couple years the medical department thought he could go at least two years without surgery, if he took things easy and did not over strain the heart. But he had no savings or health insurance once he was released from prison. So he made sure he ran several miles a day and put great stress upon his heart, and sure enough, he made the condition bad enough that emergency care was required and paid for by the state.
If you take away a prisoner's right to be healthy, just what do you think he or she may feel like taking away from society, once they are released?
In case the people of Nebraska believe that the proposed Compassionate Parole Bill is something new, think again. In fact the surest way to get parole these days is to have a costly medical condition which the Department of Corrections does not want to be required to pay for. That bill only adds the power to snatch up the poor soul who makes the mistake of recovering from some fatal prognosis and lives on, only to be returned to the pit of ten dollar a visit prison health care.