A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts reports that 41 states experienced growth in their correctional health care spending from fiscal 2007-2011, with a median increase of 13%. Further:
…state spending on prisoner health care increased from fiscal 2007 to 2011, but began trending downward from its peak in 2009. Nationwide, prison health care spending totaled $7.7 billion in fiscal 2011, down from a peak of $8.2 billion in fiscal 2009. In a majority of states, correctional health care spending and per-inmate health care spending peaked before fiscal 2011. But a steadily aging prison population is a primary challenge that threatens to drive costs back up. The share of older inmates rose in all but two of the 42 states that submitted prisoner age data. States where older inmates represented a relatively large share of the total prisoner population tended to incur higher per-inmate health care spending.
This report is timely because of the current debate over Solvaldi, the new drug for hepatitis C which costs about $1,000 a pill and up to $140,000 for a course of treatment. The debate over the price of this one drug has reached quite a high pitch. At a conference earlier today, I learned from Michael Kleinrock of the IMS Institute that about 70 percent of hepatitis C patients are either prisoners or ex-convicts. So, although commercial health plans appear to be the ones leading the challenge to the price of Sovaldi today, it is prison health-systems that will bear much of the cost.