According to the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) latest audit report, health care expenses on prison inmates have increased by 37% from 2009 to 2016.
Back in fiscal year 2009, health care for prison inmates cost the Bureau of Prisons $978 million, which increased to a staggering 1.34 billion in fiscal year 2016.
The report states that general medical services surged by 37% in the eight years accounted for, while psychology related services cost surged by 39%, drug abuse treatment programs’ costs saw an increase of 44%, and sex offender management program costs witnessed an increase of 20%.
The audit report also determined whether the increase in the number of inmates was a factor that contributed to the increasing costs. It concluded that the cost of health care per inmate was increasing. Back in 2009, an inmate’s health care costs were around $6,334, which rose to 8,602 in 2016 (inflation adjusted).
The auditors concluded that there are four major factors behind the increasing health care costs for inmates. Prices of pharmaceutical products are constantly increasing, inmates generally have very poor health, they are an aging population, and outside medical and health care costs have also risen sharply.
For example, officials stated that, “inmates come into the system with more acute needs from limited access to health care or they have engaged in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse,” and that. “Inmates also tend to have higher rates of infectious diseases and chronic conditions that can persist throughout incarceration.”
The auditor’s report also mentions that the agency does not have enough data to be able to understand the various costs or recommend any measures to control health care costs for inmates.
“While [the Bureau of Prisons] data can show how much the [Bureau of Prisons] is spending overall on health care provided inside and outside an institution, the [Bureau of Prison] lacks utilization data, which is data that shows how much it is spending on individual inmate’s health care or how much it is expending on a particular health care service,” the report concluded.
The GAO has ordered the Bureau of Prisons to use a cost-effective analysis of its health care utilization data, and to reign in these ballooning costs.