Brown: It’s time to end medical copays for incarcerated Pennsylvanians

Following Department of Corrections’ decision to halt medical co-pays during the pandemic, Brown’s legislation would make the action permanent

HARRISBURG, June 8 – State Rep. Amen Brown, D-Phila., has announced the introduction of legislation to permanently end medical copays for incarcerated Pennsylvanians.

Paid an average hourly rate of 42 cents per hour, incarcerated Pennsylvanians regularly face difficult financial decisions during incarceration. The choice they are often forced to face is whether they should spend $5 on a copay to receive basic health care services or on other necessities, such as food, phone/email costs or undergarments.

“If we do the math, an incarcerated individual will have to work about 12 hours to earn enough to pay just one medical copay,” Brown said. “Having to make such a decision places an unfair financial burden on those incarcerated.”

Not only does the $5 copay pose a financial burden to those incarcerated, but it also presents a public health dilemma by discouraging sick individuals from getting needed care. While inmates still receive medical care if they cannot pay the copay, their account balance goes into the negative, often requiring additional payments from family members to pay off the balance.

“This is not how health equity is achieved,” Brown noted. “We can and must do better.”

To alleviate the pressure put on our incarcerated individuals to pay copays, Brown will be introducing legislation to permanently end the $5 copay requirement for medical services.

Brown’s legislation follows his successful advocacy and work with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Secretary John Wetzel, which has resulted in an indefinite pause on all $5 copays after an assessment of public health considerations and risks of the ongoing pandemic.

“As legislators, we must protect and advocate for the safety and security of all Pennsylvanians, including incarcerated individuals,” Brown said.

For more questions about this legislation, residents may contact Brown’s office at or use the contact form on the official website at