The cost to Minnesota counties of providing health care for those in custody has become a budget buster, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Hennepin County was paying so much for jail inmate dialysis that it bought its own machines to do the job. Authorities note a rise in the number of inmates who have mental health problems, expensive medications and treatments, and a general increase in health care costs. Federal and state medical assistance programs and many private insurance plans cease once someone enters jail, putting the cost on counties, already facing funding shortfalls.
County officials are required by law to pay for inmate medical care, even though they likely won’t be reimbursed. They’re required to provide essential and reasonable medical and dental care. And when an inmate goes to a hospital, an officer has to be along to guard him or her 24 hours a day, forcing juggling of schedules that often leads to overtime costs. County officials don’t argue the need to provide medical care, but they wonder why coverage for someone getting federal or state medical assistance stops with their incarceration.