Reducing Correctional Health Care Spending

Source: Laura Tobler and Kristine Goodwin, LegisBrief, Vol. 21 no. 12, March 2013
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State spending on corrections quadrupled during the last two decades, making it second only to Medicaid in budget growth, according to a Pew report. Aging inmates and the associated expenses for their health care services are among the factors driving costs. The number of sentenced state and federal inmates over age 55 grew by about 194 percent between 1999 and 2011, based on Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2011, 7.9 percent of the these inmates were over age 55, up from 3.4 percent in 1999. Older inmates more often require long-term care and medications for complex and expensive chronic medical and mental conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and loss of mobility. This aging inmate population places a strain on state budgets. The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency found that the cost of providing care for inmates between the ages of 55 and 59 was more than four times the cost for those between the ages of 20 and 24. This LegisBrief is based on a forthcoming report from the State Health Care Spending Project an initiative of Pew and the MacArthur Foundation that will outline state actions to contain correctional health care spending in more detail.