Officials with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston proposed yesterday to put the state prison system back in the health care business for the first time in 18 years as a way to exit what they claim is a money-losing program that the university cannot afford, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Declaring an impasse in negotiations on a new contract, university President David Callender told its correctional health care employees that unless a deal can be reached, the university plans to “begin transitioning to (the Texas Department of Criminal Justice) a number of the services we currently provide.”
The newspaper reported yesterday that in a new sign that Texas’ state budget crisis is far from over, officials drafting a new contract to provide medical care for Texas’ 153,000 imprisoned criminals acknowledged that the $900 million allocated by the legislature will not cover the costs. For Texas taxpayers, the funding disparity could mean they will have to pay more money to provide care for prison inmates during the next two years, even if private vendors do start providing the care. For convicts, it could mean further cuts in a system that already is drawing increasing complaints about inadequate care. Prison officials said the university has reported that its current expenses are running about $2 million more per month than is budgeted.