Friday, June 10, 2011

TDCJ 'Going California'?: Prison health under-funded by nine figures

UTMB/ TDCJ  Hospital in Galveston
 From our friends at the Grits for Breakfast Blog

The big news in the corrections field recently has been the US Supreme Court's order for California to de-incarcerate its overstuffed prisons because of a failure to provide adequate healthcare. But Texas is setting itself up for the same type of situation with recently announced cuts to the prison health budget. Universities providing prison healthcare said prior to the 82nd Legislature that they weren't compensated for $57 million in healthcare services in the last biennium. The Legislature covered last year's shortfall in House Bill 4, but then they slashed another $71.5 million from prison healthcare over the next two years.

So if the last biennial budget was $57 million short and budget writers cut another $71.5 million without reducing the number of prisoners, the shortfall in the next two years - assuming the same levels of care - would run to $126.5 million, or around $800 per prisoner - a smaller reduction than earlier drafts of the budget but still around a 14% cut. In response, Grits commenters who work at TDCJ say thousands of clinic visits have already been canceled and operating room schedules have been reduced. While some of these services may not have been medically necessary, it's hard to imagine those levels of reductions without impacting actually needed services. As one commenter declared, "The system is clearly going California."

Even taking into account allegations by the state auditor that UTMB overcharged the state $37 million in the last biennium for services not covered under their contract, that's still nearly $90 million short of the amount needed to provide services that state officials already considered barely constitutional. (And notably, the state reimbursed universities for all the alleged overcharges, siding with UTMB over the state auditor.) A new $100 annual fee will replace $3 copays for inmates, but if there's no money in their commissary account they don't have to pay and nobody thinks it will remotely cover the shortfall. (UPDATE/CORRECTION: The bill to revamp inmate copays died unexpectedly on the last day but has been revived in the special session, reports the Statesman's Mike Ward.)

Go see the entire article at Grits ...

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