July 14, 2003
The cost of providing medical care to inmates in Nebraska's prison system rose from $8.8 million in fiscal year 2000 to approximately $18 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. A legislative mandate to provide prisoners with better health care, rising medical costs and more inmates are causing the skyrocketing costs, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
About 34 inmates with HIV are in Nebraska's prison system, with 23 under treatment for a cost of $345,000 last year, said Randy Kohl, correctional services medical director. A growing number of inmates are HIV-positive, and medical costs will likely continue to rise.
Last year, the prison system spent $280,000 treating eight inmates with hepatitis C, and this figure could rise dramatically as more of the nearly 500 inmates with hepatitis C reach the point of needing treatment. According to Kohl, the agency could be spending $700,000 on hepatitis C treatment next year if 20 people need the $35,000-a-year combination of drugs, specialized care and lab tests.
Costs also increased after the Legislature mandated in 2001 that prisoners be provided the same level of care as most insured Nebraskans. That came after a task force investigation by the state Ombudsman's Office found that the prison system sometimes offered substandard care and that a lack of training had led to at least one prisoner's death.
The department should be in full compliance with the mandate by December, Kohl said.