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Lawmakers Look at Jail Overcrowding, Increasing Costs of Medicaid
Written by Your 5News Team
Last updated on May 14, 2012 @ 7:35PM
Created on May 14, 2012 @ 6:30PM
The first interim committee meetings since the regular legislative session are underway at our State Capitol.  Forty meetings will span the next three days, and lawmakers will talk about a wide range of issues including regional jail overcrowding, higher education funding, and the increasing Medicaid costs.  As for the jail overcrowding, our state's regional jail authority says it has a plan to help more than 1,000 inmates in regional jails get the programs they need for parole.

Metronews reports the authority is looking into the costs of offering programs that inmates can get only in state prison.  Right now there are about 1,800 state inmates in regional jails because the state prisons are overcrowded.  Some of those inmates have a tough time getting out on parole because the programs required to get parole aren't offered in regional jails.

Some estimated costs include $1.4 million a year to hire staff and they could charge the division of corrections $2.00 to $4.00 per inmate to cover that cost.  As many as 1,200 low risk inmates could complete the program in a year.  Combine that with some other efforts and those inmates could get out of jail early.  That would alleviate the crowded jails and prisons, all of which are full.

Lawmakers are also looking to hear from state officials about how to handle the increasing costs of the Medicaid health care program.  Some are considering managed care for some of the sickest people who rely on the government program.  It is an approach that is similar to health maintenance organizations in the private market.  The Bureau of Medical services is supposed to talk with lawmakers, but advocates for the poor and disabled aren't sure about the state's approach.  

They say there may be better and more cost effective alternatives.  Almost all 50 states use managed care to cover at least some of their people on Medicaid.  Several are also looking to expand that coverage to people with disabilities.

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