The prison population across the nation is aging. A plan, developed by the Ohio Department of Corrections, broadens the number of inmates who would qualify for early release to a hospice or nursing home. The proposal allows individuals who no longer pose a threat to society and those serving mandatory sentences to be eligible for nursing home care. Inmates serving life sentences or who are on death row do not qualify.
The impetus for this move is to transfer the costs of care from the state tax base to Medicaid. This is a policy that will have more impact in future years, as the prison populations grows.
Since 2012, Ohio has spent $33 million to pay for healthcare for those inmates 50 years of age and older, according to a news report. Taxpayer dollars covered the cost of assistive devices (wheelchairs, walkers and canes) and medications.
Many of Ohio’s sickest inmates are cared for at the Franklin Medical Center, a facility that provides round-the-clock care. This arrangement for 50 inmates costs Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars.
Not everyone, however, supports this proposal. The Ohio Health Care Association (OHCA) was not invited to participate in discussions, according to Peter Van Runkle, OHCA Executive Director. Getting OHCA members on board with the proposal will be a hard sell because of safety issues. “No one is going to say, ‘Oh, my mom lives next to this hardened criminal,’” Runkle said. Although the individual may be incapacitated, the stigma is still there, he adds.