As Miami-Dade County commissioners consider the Jackson Health System budget this week , two looming questions are likely to be why taxpayers are footing the bill for inmate health care and why Jackson isn’t even trying to charge prisoners for their own care, as required by state law, reports the Miami Herald. The cost of the care is also at issue. Correctional health care costs Miami-Dade taxpayers $24 million a year. Trying to save money, Jackson executives want an outside contractor; in August, they received bids ranging from $57 to $93 million a year — at least twice as much as the services now cost.
Inmate health care has been a hot topic because most public hospitals don’t have to pick up the costs — local governments or other entities do. Jackson executives have frequently complained that prisoner care is an “unfunded mandate” that the county commission forced on them starting in 1992. At a recent committee meeting, Jennifer Glazer-Moon, Miami-Dade’s budget director, fired a series of questions at Jackson officials about inmate health care. She wanted to know how Jackson was accounting for in-patient care, since it wasn’t part of the “Correctional Healthcare” line item in financial statements. She didn’t get an answer.