Pew Report Examines How State Prisons Arrange and Pay For Hospital Care

Posted Jul 20, 2018

The Pew Charitable Trusts explored hospital care for people incarcerated in state prisons, tapping data from two nationwide surveys conducted by Pew and the Vera Institute of Justice and from interviews with more than 75 state officials. This first-of-its-kind analysis of hospital care for this patient population is part of a broader examination by Pew of correctional health care in the United States.

The report discusses the ways states arrange and pay for hospital care for their incarcerated population and how such care supplements on-site prison health services. Its findings include:

  • Off-site care costs are a significant part of correctional health budgets. For example, Virginia spent 27 percent of its prison health care budget on off-site hospital care in 2015, while New York spent 23 percent.
  • The health care delivery model that state prisons use to provide on-site services informs decisions they must make regarding hospitalization arrangements, including who holds authority to send someone off-site, how the care is coordinated and reviewed, and which entity pays the bill.
  • The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers state policymakers who elect to expand their Medicaid programs’ eligibility a way to reduce inpatient hospital spending.
  • Though incarcerated individuals always will need to be treated at hospitals for certain conditions or tests, some states have promising practices to avert some off-site care, saving money and mitigating public safety risks.

The report’s discussion of state approaches to providing care to incarcerated individuals is designed to help the officials involved in setting hospitalization policy—lawmakers, prison and hospital medical staff and administrators, correctional officers, and sometimes private contractors—better manage costs while working toward or maintaining a high-performing prison health care system.

Read the full report State Prisons and the Delivery of Hospital Care »