Los Angeles Times Examines State’s Increased Health Care Costs for Elderly Inmates
The Los Angeles Times yesterday examined the state's increased number of elderly inmates, who have begun to "strain" prison budgets as a result of increased health care costs. The state's prison population has dropped over the past 12 years, but the number of inmates ages 55 and older, who currently account for 4% of the prison population, has tripled over the same period. The Times reports that elderly inmates represent "huge hidden costs" for the state's prisons, which spent $676 million on medical care last year, double the amount spent in 1995. Prison officials cannot estimate the amount spent on geriatric care, but they said that elderly inmates often require a "24-hour hospice bed, expensive cardiac care, organ transplants, cancer treatment and special supervision for dementia." Although the Department of Corrections started to develop a "new management approach" in 1999 to help control the cost of care for elderly inmates, state budget reductions prevented implementation of the proposal. The department recommended "training guards to handle inmates with Alzheimer's, developing easy-to-chew diets, recruiting gerontologists" and establishing "early release and home detention" programs for elderly inmates (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 6/9). According to national studies, the "older inmates are less violent and dangerous, while housing them may cost three times as much as the price of housing younger inmates" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/10).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.