When inmates in Wisconsin’s correctional facilities are prescribed medications, the state currently picks up the cost of their drugs. State Representative Mark Radcliffe (D-Black River Falls) says that carries a price tag of nearly $16 million a year, even though many inmates do have the money to cover them.

Radcliffe is sponsoring a bill that would require a co-pay from inmates of at least $2.50 for prescription drugs. The money would come from an inmate’s canteen account, which is a fund available for them to pay for goods and is based on work they do while incarcerated.

Radcliffe says the measure would not prevent inmates from getting prescriptions they need if they do not have the funds to pay for them. He notes that inmates already pay a co-pay when they see a doctor, which helps the state offset medical costs by about $200,000 a year.

While the Department of Corrections is not opposed to the bill, Bureau of Health Services director Jim Greer warns that it could prevent inmates from taking needed medications if they don’t want to spend the money. He says that could result in higher medical costs for the state when it comes to treating communicable diseases, which can spread quickly in the closed areas of correctional facilities where inmates spend most of their time.

The bill received a Capitol hearing on Thursday, and is currently being considered by a legislative committee.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:04)

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