Cost Of Health Care In Tennessee Prisons Is About To Spike | Nashville Public Radio

Cost Of Health Care In Tennessee Prisons Is About To Spike

Nov 8, 2017


The care of prisoners’ health across the state will remain in the hands of the embattled current provider — Centurion of Tennessee. But as of next July, it’s going to get considerably more expensive.

Right now, medical costs are around $11 per day, per inmate. Centurion is planning to hike the individual cost up to almost $17 a day. Over five years, that’s an extra $70 million dollars.

Speaking to the governor, officials with the state’s corrections agency said only two companies bid on the contract. They also blamed the changing demographics in inmate population for the higher cost, including a growing number of prisoners over 50.

There's also been a sudden rise in women behind bars. Many of whom are coming in with serious problems.

"Over 70 percent of those females at intake are being diagnosed with some mental health or substance abuse disorder," says Wes Landers, chief financial officer of the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Landers says of men and women, 60 percent suffer from a chronic or serious illness.


Centurion has provided medical services to the more than 20,000 incarcerated people in Tennessee since 2013. But legal allegations of inadequate care abound — including a woman who had to give birth without a doctor present, failure to provide medication to inmates suffering from Hepatitis C, and a man who died after two weeks in the prison’s infirmary following a brain hemorrhage.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that health care would cost the state about $100 million more over the next five years. But a Department of Correction spokesperson says once the new contract with Centurion is signed next year, the expected average yearly cost will be about $98 million, or a $14 million per year increase compared to the current cost. That means over five years, the cost of healthcare would rise by $70 million, not $100 million.