California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to put the University of California in charge of state prison inmates’ medical needs in an overhaul of the troubled corrections healthcare system that could save $12 billion over a decade, the Los Angeles Times reports. The arrangement, similar to a centralized system of managed care, would dramatically expand the use of telemedicine, a technique by which patients are seen by doctors in remote locations over a screen with an Internet connection. It would institute electronic record-keeping so providers could access medical information from anywhere.
The plan could include the purchase or construction of a central hospital near several prison infirmaries for housing and treatment of the chronically sick. That would reduce the state’s current — and expensive — practice of paying correctional officers overtime to transport and guard inmates at community hospitals around the state. Eventually, the program would mean a sharp reduction in the number of employees providing care. The proposal would require approval from lawmakers and from federal judges presiding over inmate lawsuits on inadequate healthcare. It could meet with opposition from unions for state workers whose jobs might change or be eliminated. The program, recommended by a Texas company that the state hired as a consultant, would be an effort to reduce, and ultimately end, oversight of California’s prison medical care by federal courts.