Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Michigan dumping CMS?

According to an editorial in tonight's GR Press, Michigan will end its contract with Correctional Medical Services next March.

Michigan plans to change how health care is delivered to its 50,000 prison inmates. It's a reasonable response to horror stories of substandard medical treatment causing unnecessary suffering and deaths in the state's prisons.

The Corrections Department will switch to regional health maintenance organizations for prison care when the contract with the current private provider -- Correctional Medical Services -- runs out in March. The Missouri-based CMS has provided primary care physicians and other services in Michigan state prisons since 1998. Its dismal record here and in other states is reason enough to try a different approach.

There are these "horror stories" from across the state and from across the country involving inmates dying under CMS care- and we are talking about basic, humane care, such as giving people water.

Lawsuits everywhere, including here. Whenever Republicans say "privatize", the case of CMS should be brought up as an example of how it might not be such a good idea. You could make the case that privatization really doesn't save you any money when you are being sued all the time.

In May, a federal jury awarded the family of Jeffrey Clark $3 million in a lawsuit over the inmate's death in 2002. He died of thirst in the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, where he was serving time for robbery. Another inmate, 41-year-old Lloyd Martell, who died of colon cancer in February, also filed suit. He was granted a medical parole last August to go home and die. His lawsuit claims that his cancer could have been contained but went untreated.

This certainly sounds like prison reform that is headed in the right direction. Perhaps people will get better treatment, and, according to the Press, this will save money also. 

Michigan is paying a hefty sum to provide inmate health care -- an estimated $300 million this year. That's about $6,000 per inmate. Reducing those costs should be a priority. The Department of Corrections believes the regional HMO system can deliver better care for less money than the statewide, managed-care system now in place. It's certainly worth a try to find out.

Dumping CMS is a big story.

Given the current atmosphere surrounding prison reform in Lansing, how come no one is talking about this?

Or did I just miss it?