Colorado House Bill to Revise Inmate Health Care Payments

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would clarify health care payment policies for inmates in the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC).

The legislation, submitted by members of the General Assembly’s Legislative Audit Committee, would give DOC boss Ari Zavaras the authority to create new procedures that require prisoners to make co-payments for inmate-initiated medical, mental health, dental and optometric visits.The DOC already has a policy regarding co-payments, but according to the proposed legislation, the “procedures for co-payment are confusing to department personnel, and as a result, are inconsistently applied.”

Current corrections department policy states that inmates be charged a co-pay of $5 to $10 dollars per appointment, depending on the situation. A payment is not required for emergency services, health screenings, pregnancy services or sexual assault examinations.

The proposal is meant to stop instances where prisoners may have been wrongly required to make a payment for health services, says DOC spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti.

“If there’s a sexual assault, inmates need to go down and be examined, we do not want them to have to pay a co-pay for that,” Sanguinetti says, noting that she isn’t aware of any case where an assault victim was forced to make a co-pay.

House sponsors Rep. Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock, and audit committee chair Rep. James Kerr, R-Littleton, did not return requests for comment regarding the proposal.

In a 2005 report, the audit committee reviewed internal medical services provided to inmates at state-run adult facilities and found that “health intake procedures are not being completed for all inmates in a timely and comprehensive manner,” and that “greater uniformity and consistency is needed to deliver quality care at the clinics.”

Sanguinetti says she does not know if the DOC will be supporting the measure. The proposal is set to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at