Texas officials are scrutinizing the health-care costs of prison tattooing, which spreads hepatitis C. Prison health officials estimate that as many as 50,000 of the state's more than 150,000 inmates could be infected with hepatitis C, reports the Texas Tribune. The viral disease is transmitted largely through infected blood and can lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer. The cost to treat Texas inmates with hepatitis C is expected to soar by as much as 380 percent next year as a more effective but more expensive treatment is instituted. Legislators, already facing a strained budget, will have to find millions more dollars to pay for this care.
A prison health official said the state provided two-drug medication therapy for about 400 hepatitis C patients per month, at a cost to the state of about $2.8 million per year. The cure rate is about 40 percent. But new medical guidelines call for the use of a third medication that will increase the cost of hepatitis C treatment in prisons to between $8 million and $13 million a year. Adding a third drug raised the cure rate to 70 percent.