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As Inmates Age, Prison Health Care Spending in Texas Could Grow

The new state law would mean more foreign-born Texan inmates would be eligible for parole if they are immediately deported.
Caleb Bryant Miller/KUT News
Researchers at The Pew Charitable Trusts have a new report out that suggests Texas will continue to spend more on inmate health care as prison population ages.

Researchers at The Pew Charitable Trusts have a new report out on how much states are spending on inmate health care. Between 2001 and 2008, Texas had a decrease in this spending, but since then, it’s gone up again. 

Expenses are growing because the population of older inmates in Texas is growing. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has more than 150,000 inmates. A little under 10 percent of the inmate population is older than 55.

"Those individuals do drive up costs of per inmate spending in health care," says Maria Schiff, project director for the Pew Charitable Trust’s state health care spending project. "I would say what Texas spends on inmate health is on the lower side – just over $3,800 dollars per inmate and so they’re right in the middle in terms of per inmate spend. The one factor that they’d have to be on the lookout for is the proportion of older inmates and whether those individuals start driving that spending up."

The report also suggests Texas is a leader in use of telemedicine in prisons because of the state’s size. In 2012, Texas recorded almost 84,000 tele-health encounters mostly in psychiatry and primary care.

Meanwhile, prison health care experts in Texas say one of the most expensive illnesses to treat is Hepatitis C because of the cost of medication. The Pew report is part of an ongoing series on health care costs.

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