North Carolina could save $11.5 million a year by requiring that hospitals and other health care providers bill Medicaid when prisoners are treated as inpatients, says a state auditor’s report quoted by the Raleigh News & Observer. Auditor Beth Wood said the state paid about $159 million for inmate health care in 2008 and 2009. Of that, about $26.5 million went to treat prisoners who were potentially eligible for Medicaid, a federal-state health care program for the needy and disabled.
An earlier audit said North Carolina’s prison system pays almost five times more for inmate health care than government insurance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare and that costs will continue to escalate. In that report, Wood said spending on hospital care has shot up from $17.5 million in 1999 to $55.8 million in 2009. Dr. Paula Smith, corrections department chief of medical services, said at the time that the department is outgunned and lacks the expertise to negotiate health care contracts.