In the January’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee in Justice and Public Safety meeting Sen. Austin Allran (R-Alexander) posed a question to Terri Catlett, Deputy Director of Health Services, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, Department of Public safety. “If the prison population is going down and the number of inmate hospital admissions is declining,” Allran asked, “then why is the cost of health care rising for inmates?”
These graphs show inmate health care spending increased in 2013-2014 to $242,349,751 from $236,089,490. While we all know that health care costs increase every year, wouldn’t the decline in demand push down costs? And are these prisoners getting better and cheaper medical care then middle-class Americans.
One specific detail that may have caught some by surprise was the fact that the prisons have a mobile MRI unit that is sent to the prisons when needed. When shopping around for MRIs, people with medical insurance will probably have to pay $500 to $1,000 out of pocket, but use of the mobile unit means a charge of $300 to the prison system, not the prisoner. If a prisoner doesn’t have to pay anything out of pocket, should this be an issue?
There is a question that is worth asking about these benefits: Do they mean that being convicted of a crime mean getting free health care while the rest of the country is fighting over who should get subsidies and who should not?
We are talking about convicted criminals, serious offenders, and people who under the law have a debt to society. While each person should be treated as a human being, should they have cheaper, better access to medical care than the regular population?
A joke was made at one point in the meeting: “This is better than Obamacare!” Maybe the joke is on North Carolina taxpayers.