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The Cost of Providing Prisoner Health Care

Today the State Auditor released an audit of the Department of Correction’s prisoner medical costs.  WakeMed is a primary provider of hospital care for Central and Women’s Prisons due to close proximity, and the audit indicates that WakeMed’s reimbursement for these patients is significantly higher than Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement.  As a result of the audit, WakeMed received numerous requests from the media to explain the seemingly higher charges. So, we thought we would share the same information with you. 

The study was based on Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates that do not cover our cost of providing care. Additionally, prisoners are more expensive to care for because of their higher acuity levels.  (In other words, they tend to be much sicker and tend not have had consistent access to health care or preventative medicine.) Caring for prisoners also requires significantly increased numbers of clinical staff and additional security.

WakeMed is a highly efficient hospital, and we are proud to provide high quality health care to everyone.  But the reality is that as a private not-for-profit, we receive no funds from the state, county or city and provide the majority of the charity care in Wake County.  We also incur the additional costs of caring for a large number of prisoners – who are very expensive to care for.

Over the past 18 months, WakeMed and the North Carolina Hospital Association have been working on a solution that would distribute the prisoner population evenly to hospitals throughout the state.  This solution would also ensure reasonable reimbursement for caring for this unique population of patients. Additionally, we have  been working with the Department of Correction to help them provide more care within the prison system hospitals, so that prisoner health care costs can be even further reduced.