Thursday, March 25, 2010

Prison Health Care

The idea expressed in this article from the Los Angeles Times—to have the University of California take over prison health care—is an excellent one; and the downside of losing jobs is a result of increasing efficiency through technology, leading to the requirement of the modern labor force to commit to life-long learning, which many are.

An excerpt.

“The Schwarzenegger administration wants to put the University of California in charge of state prison inmates' medical needs in an overhaul of the troubled corrections healthcare system that could save $12 billion over a decade, officials say.

“The arrangement, similar to a centralized system of managed care, would dramatically expand the use of telemedicine, a technique by which patients are seen by doctors in remote locations over a screen with an Internet connection. It would institute electronic record-keeping so providers could access medical information from anywhere.

“And the plan, still being refined, could include the purchase or construction of a central hospital near several prison infirmaries for housing and treatment of the chronically sick. That would reduce the state's current -- and expensive -- practice of paying correctional officers overtime to transport and guard inmates at community hospitals around the state.

“Eventually, the program would mean a sharp reduction in the number of employees providing care.

“The proposal would require approval from lawmakers and from federal judges presiding over inmate lawsuits on inadequate healthcare. It could meet with opposition from unions for state workers whose jobs might change or be eliminated.

“The program, recommended by a Texas company that the state hired as a consultant, would be an effort to reduce, and ultimately end, oversight of California's prison medical care by federal courts.

“After a receiver took control of the system in 2006, medical costs skyrocketed. They reached $2.5 billion a year, including mental health care, which the receiver does not control, and have since declined to $2.2 billion. But they remain far higher than in other states, according a report by NuPhysicia, the state's consultant.”