Mike Ward with the Austin American-Statesman wrote an article than ran today about prison health care. Whether you know a lot or know nothing about correctional managed care and UTMB’s role in serving this unique population of patients, it’s a good article to read. We’re between a rock and a hard place on this one. When you’ve got so many hard-working people (and their kids) in Texas that are uninsured and struggling to find and access health care, it’s hard to get the public excited about spending more money on health care for prisoners. But when we as a society lock people up, we’re constitutionally and ethically charged with providing for their basic health needs. Based on what I’ve read and heard, UTMB and Texas Tech have done an admirable job of providing good care as effciently and cost-effectively as possible. (The article touches on our cost per day as compared to other states; we’re the lowest and considered a “model.”) I’ve met many people who work in correctional care and have been extremely impressed by them, by their missionary-like dedication and commitment, by their ability to find humanity and deliver compassionate care in the very challenging environment of our state’s prisons. These folks know adversity, but the quote by Allen Hightower, the executive director of the state’s Correctional Managed Health Care Committee that oversees the prison health care system, pretty much sums it up: “You can only squeeze so much juice out of an orange, and then there just isn’t any more. We’re there.”
Soon it’ll be in the hands of our state budget writers and legislators. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll find a few bushels of unsqueezed oranges.