Ohio prisons cutting medical costs

Associated Press


Ohio prisons cut more than $26 million from inmate medical expenses last year, a state prisons inspection committee reports.

The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee report shows a 15.2 percent reduction in prison medical expenses in 2012, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The state paid $188.3 million in 2012 for medical services compared with $211.5 million in 2011 and $222.8 million for medical services in 2010.

The report by the legislative agency that monitors Ohio prisons also said the number of inmate patient visits to nurses and doctors dropped by 25 percent last year from 2009 and the number of inmates seen per health-care worker dropped to 48 in 2012 from a high of 65 in 2006.

The savings resulted from a long process of “looking at every aspect of our health-care system,” according to Stuart Hudson, chief of medical services for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Hudson said the state’s switch last year to a system-wide mail-order delivery for medications resulted in a savings of more than $2 million. The state paid a total of $27.6 million for inmate medicine in 2012.

Another change required inmates to pay for over-the-counter pain medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen that are not covered by the state. In addition, the state began requiring a $2 copay from inmates each time they saw a nurse or doctor and returned to having medical personnel on staff instead of using contract services.

A previous-approval requirement for outside and specialty medical care also was added, and a contract with Ohio State University allows prisons to pay the Medicaid rate for inmate care, the lowest rate available.

Hudson said the state did not sacrifice quality care in making the changes.

But the president of an organization that advocates for prisoners and their families said that even requiring inmates to pay $2 is a burden on them and their families.

“When you’ve got someone making $18 a month [the average pay rate for inmates], spending $2 on a doctor is a lot,” said Ellen Kitchens, president of CURE-Ohio.

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