Assembly Bill 45 was introduced by Asm. Mark Stone. This bill permanently eliminates medical and dental copayments for people inside of California’s jails and prisons. People in California prisons were being charged a $5 copayment when they initiated medical or dental services. The average wage for people in prisons is $0.08 an hour meaning that medical and dental visits could have cost more than one week’s pay. Jails were authorized to charge up to $3 per copayment, but no wages are earned while people are incarcerated in jails. The high cost of healthcare in prisons and jails discouraged many people from seeking care until it was an emergency. This barrier to healthcare jeopardized not just the health of the imprisoned, but also the health of prison staff and the public, as sick people who avoid doctors are more likely to suffer from more severe illness and increased infection rates.
On March 1, 2019, CDCR announced they would stop charging a $5 copay to people in their facilities, which was a huge victory and a response to the pressure advocates applied. However, AB 45 codified this practice so that CDCR could no longer charge a copayment in the future. In addition, all county jails will stop charging copayments as a result of this bill.
Co-Sponsors for AB 45 include Initiate Justice, ACLU of California, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Union of American Physicists and Dentists.
AB 45 was signed into law on October 8, 2019 and became effective on January 1, 2020.