California Prison Health Care Reforms Drive Up Salaries, Analysis Finds
Salary increases for prison health care personnel ordered by court-appointed officials have cost California tens of millions of dollars, according to an analysis of state employee salaries by the Sacramento Bee that found a significant jump in the number of state employees being paid at least $100,000 annually.
Most of the state's increases in six-figure salaries can be attributed to reforms in the prison health care system that were intended to make it more competitive with the private sector, the Bee reports.
The 1,000 highest-paid employees at the Department of Corrections -- most of whom are medical professionals -- were paid annual salaries totaling $198 million, an increase of more than $68 million from January 2007.
The court-appointed state prison receiver, Clark Kelso, said the salary increases were needed to recruit new staff and retain existing health care personnel.
Robin Dezember, the state's director of correctional health care services, said the increased salaries seemed to have attracted dentists.
Vacancy rates for psychiatrists remain near 50%, and primary care physician openings in the prisons are numerous, according to the Bee.
To compete with higher salaries offered by the corrections department, the California Department of Mental Health also had to increase compensation for health care workers.
The mental health department's 300 highest-paid employees, mostly psychiatrists, were paid salaries totaling $60 million in February, an increase of $18 million over January 2007.
The analysis found that California's highest-paid employee is Mark Laret, CEO of UC San Francisco Medical Center, with a base annual salary of $566,838. When bonuses and other compensation are included, several UC physicians were paid more than $1 million last year (Reese, Sacramento Bee, 3/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.