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February 27, 2005

Private Health Care in Jails.

A huge (11 pages on the net) report on private companies providing health care to jails in the US:

Private Health Care in Jails Can Be a Death Sentence

It’s very fierce, essentially accusing a company, Prison Health, of killing inmates in the pursuit of profit. They claim to have spent a year researching the story and certainly, the way they tell it, the situation is miserable, absolutely unacceptable in anything we might consider to be a civilised society (although whether we should consider the American incarceration system to be that is moot).

There is just one little thing that worries me. To state that private, for profit, health care is bad is one thing. But how bad is it compared to other systems?  As all good little economists know we should not compare a system or outcome with an imagined and perfect system, but with the alternative systems that actually exist in the real world. There’s only one mention of this in the whole piece:

"It's like an article of faith that private is better," Dr. Shansky said, even though a 1997 study comparing government and for-profit prison care, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Corrections, found little difference in cost or quality.

There’s the heart of the story, that all medical care at all US prisons and jails is lousy, provision by a private company or by government making little or no difference.  So why spend 11 pages tearing into one particular private company?  Where are the stories of publicly, not for profit, provided health care causing deaths? Perhaps I am just being too cynical, way over the top...except, well, if private and publicly funded health care are equally bad, ragging on only the privately delivered side of it does seem to betray something of a political agenda doesn’t it? Naah, couldn’t be, the New York Times doesn’t have an agenda now does it?

February 27, 2005 in Health Care | Permalink


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I couldn't bring myself to wade through this article in the Times. Does it mention that being in prison gets you a high spot on the waiting list for a heart transplant -- which is extremely expensive and of course paid for by the society that the criminals have by definition wronged?

Posted by: Van Helsing | Feb 27, 2005 8:30:30 PM