Individuals and businesses are not the only ones dealing with skyrocketing health care costs. Most states face ever-increasing health care rates for their prison and jail inmates. As a result, some states are considering privatization of inmate health care.
In fact, some states already are passing legislation to allow privatization of that service. The number of incarcerated individuals in state lockups translates to large contracts for private sector firms. In Texas alone, health care costs for inmates in state prisons and state jails are approximately $800 million annually. State officials see these large numbers as attractive to would-be private sector health care providers. That means more bidders for the state contract, and the possibility of lower rates because of the increased competition.
In North Carolina, health care for prisoners costs the state about $250 million each year. The state has made a decision to outsource its correctional medical services by 2013 and plans to contract with only one service provider. The contract will include all health-related services, including physical, dental, emergency, mental, program support services, personnel and other medical services for about 40,000 men and women located in jails and prisons throughout the state.
The state of Michigan privatized health services for more than 50,000 inmates and anticipates a savings of $20 million a year as a result. Correctional officials, who also privatized psychiatric services, say there is a noticeable improvement in the mental health care program. The cities of Detroit and Jackson are also interested in outsourcing health care services in their local jails.
Florida, which has the nation’s third-highest prison population, is considering legislation that would privatize health related services at the state’s prison system. The system includes more than 100,000 inmates. Arizona and Philadelphia are also interested in outsourcing correctional health care. Public officials in Texas announced recently that the state will use various health care providers to care for inmates. An agreement has been reached for Huntsville Memorial Hospital to provide emergency-care beds and possibly oversee emergency room operations.
This is a national trend that bears watching. And, health care providers throughout the country would be advised to check and see what opportunities are coming available in their geographic location.