BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - An Erie County lawmaker is supporting a bill from state senators that would require prisoners to make a co-payment for all medical expenses.
Currently, county taxpayers pay for inmates health care. Republican Legislator Ed Rath is now joining the push to pass this legislation, and he says it would save Erie County taxpayers millions of dollars.
The county spends around $10 million each year for inmate medical expenses. The state says each inmate costs taxpayers more than $5,600 each year.
Proposed legislation we first told you about Wednesday would force inmates to contribute a $7 co-pay for everything except psychiatric treatment. However, no one would ever be denied medical care.
Supporters believe the co-pay will act as a deterrent to repeat offenders who abuse the system.
"I think we need to be very careful how were spending the taxpayers dollars across out community," Rath said. "I think it is fair because I've come to find out there is a very large number of frivolous medical services that are provided in Erie County."
The sheriff's office says Erie County taxpayers have helped pay for eyeglasses, hearing aids, births, dental work, chemo therapy and abortions for inmates.
The state says hormone therapy for sex changes have also been provided, thanks to money from taxpayers. Though an inmate cannot start a sex change in prison, if they began treatments on the outside, they could continue to get them for free thanks to taxpayers once behind bars.
Rath said, "Of course they get the care they need, but they don't get excessive, unnecessary and expensive care."
Rath says at the next Public Safety Committee meeting there will be more discussion about the bill.
The legislation was created by a downstate Republican, and local Republican lawmakers support it. However, Democratic downstate Senator Gustavo Rivera said correctional facilities should help correct people who break the law, and this legislation will do the opposite by putting pressure on poor families to send inmates money - money the families need to survive.
Hundreds of workers, politicians and residents of Chautauqua County rallied in Dunkirk calling on state regulators to approve plans for NRG to convert and reopen a power plant.
Police are following up on some leads to find out who killed 30 year-old Desirae James. Friends and family held a vigil Saturday night.
Volunteers at Buffalo’s Salvation Army created holiday cards and gift bags for the seniors at the Golden Age Center.
Buffalo police homicide detectives have identified an Eggertsville man who was shot and killed early Saturday morning.
Seventy-two years after the attack that launched the US into World War II, Western New Yorkers remembered the fatal day at Pearl Harbor Hawaii.
The abandoned puppy in the Town of Evans was actually turned in by the dog's owner.