Thursday, May 13, 2010

As Texas' prison health system falters, will California follow suit?

Stuart Bussey at California Weekly has picked up on the fact that Texas' approach to prison healthcare isn't all it's cracked up to be:

It came from out of nowhere: a” too-good-to-be-true” proposal that would purportedly slash costs for California’s prison healthcare system through the expanded use of telemedicine. Now suddenly, without any appropriate vetting or study, this proposal is being touted as a sound, fully baked solution.

It is not. Instead, it’s a sales proposal from a for-profit Texas corporation with only six employees, and with financial problems of its own. This company is looking to sell California hundreds of million of dollars in telemedicine equipment along with a whole lot of empty promises.

The private company, NuPhysicia, is an offshoot of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) – a public university in Texas that took over care of Texas inmates in 1994. UTMB owns 35% of NuPhysicia, created to sell versions of its prison telemedicine system inside and outside of the state of Texas. Recently, NuPhysicia presented its paper:“Assessment and Evaluation: California’s Opportunities for Improved Inmate Health Care Quality and Cost Controls.” Susan Kennedy, Governor Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff, gushed it is a “wholesale reform of the prison healthcare system,” that promises savings of $1.2 billion annually.

Sounds good? Here’s the problem:

The cost savings promised in the NuPhysicia proposal are grossly inflated. The $1.2 billion dollar savings estimate in this proposal may actually be closer to the $35 million/year that was actually saved in Texas. A 2006 LAO report estimates an even lower annual savings for California -- about $17 million dollars/year. And those savings don’t account for the added costs of settling lawsuits that may result from the poor-quality of care that would result from the plan.
Citing UTMB's recent shortfall, Bussey wrote:
Texas has been the testing ground for the NuPysicia healthcare delivery model that is being proposed for California. Given their maternal relationship with NuPhysicia, UTMB might wish it could throw the baby out with the bath water. According to UTMB’s executive vice president and finance and business officer, William R. Elger, they stand to lose between $65 and $105 million in 2010 -11 on the academic-prison partnership. This is because the program is underfunded by the state. “It’s not working for us, and it’s not working for the state.”
RELATED: UTMB threatens to cancel prison healthcare contract


machine said...

Want to SAVE money...Want to REDUCE the amount of tax dollars spent on prisons????
STOP over populating prisons with those who are not criminals. We could reduce 1/3 of the 9 million doing time in American prisons if we would decriminalize the personal possesion/ use (small amounts) of Marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, and abolish mandatory minimum sentences. In fact if we legalize and allow states to regulate the sale of marijuana we could MAKE money, just like alcohol and tobaco.

Until then we will continue to have these expense issues which cost tax payers billions of dollars a year...Dollars that could/should be going towards education, community improvments, and better programs for drug education (rather than the currant ignorant drug rhetoric)

Formaya said...

The article speaks for itself. Don't contract with a company which has not lived up to its promises elsewhere. Want to SAVE money?
Release no violent prisoners early, decriminalize pot, throw out the Three Strikes Law and have the spineless legislators tackle overall sentencing reform! Presto BILLIONS of savings !