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Dayton Daily News...
Ohio’s prisoner medical costs top $222 million
Lawsuit, age of prisoners may have led to increase.
By Jim Otte, WHIO-TV

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 

The cost to Ohio for prisoner medical care last year topped $222 million, leading state prison officials to seek ways to bring it down. 

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections is under a federal class action lawsuit filed in 2003 to improve medical care for prisoners, and that has led the state to hire hundreds of medical staff and build new facilities for prisoner care. 

In 2010, the state paid an average of $4,371 per inmate in medical costs. 

The lawsuit was filed by Ohio prisoners and lawyers who complained that the medical system had been so starved for funding that the conditions were deplorable. 

“People were dying and getting a lot sicker than they should because of inadequate medical care,” said Rickell Howard with the Ohio Justice and Police Center. 

The state spent $28 million on prescriptions alone and will pay to provide medical service through its own state-employed health care employees or, in extreme cases, in private hospitals. The state typically will pay 25 percent of the billed charges from a private medical provider. 

Spending is also up because the average age of Ohio’s prisoners is rising: 1,000 inmates are age 65 or older. 

Ricky Beers of Springfield, 50, was incarcerated in August for one year on a charge of breaking and entering while he was already facing multiple medical problems. He entered the prison relying upon a colostomy bag and has had his spleen removed while in the prison system. 

“It’s gone better than I thought,” he said. 

Patients with cancer are the most costly, and some patients have cost the state more than $250,000 a year in medical costs. 

To try to reduce costs, the state created its own in-house lab for blood and urine testing and a dialysis unit for inmates. 

The state takes the extreme step of releasing a sick prisoner from custody only in cases in which non violent offenders are diagnosed with a terminal illness. “There are tough decisions to make, but there are a lot of patients here that do not qualify for those things,” said Stuart Hudson, chief of the corrections department health care service. 

The lawsuit is to be reviewed by the court this summer and a determination will be made on whether or not to release the state’s prison medical system from court oversight. 

Read this and other articles at the Dayton Daily News

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