In 2014, the Department of Correction spent $85.5 million in caring for the mental and physical health needs of Connecticut’s inmates under the terms of an agreement between the prison system and UConn Health Center’s Correctional Managed Health Care program.
However, according to an audit released Tuesday the true cost of that care is much higher.
The budget for the agreement between CMHC and the DOC did not include long term expenses such as employee fringe benefits and workers compensation.
Those costs, which include pensions, health benefits and workers’ compensation, added $49.7 million in expenses and brought the total cost of the program to $135 million.
The auditor’s criticized the agency for understating the true cost of the agreement, “impairing effective fiscal assessment by other governmental agencies and public stakeholders.”
CMHC provides 900 employees who care for the medical needs of nearly 20,000 inmates in 18 different facilities.
However, the program has remained controversial because the state does not allow other healthcare companies to bid to provide services. Other states and New York City use private health providers and force companies to bid for the contract.
The use of additional state employees to provide health services to inmates adds to Connecticut’s growing pension issues, particularly as many of those employees are highly paid doctors who will then receive large pensions paid for by taxpayers.
Allowing private companies to bid to provide services could allow the state to continue caring for inmates’ health but without the added burden of long-term employee expenses.
The DOC also allowed CMHC to charge $6.3 million in extra accumulated expenses, according to the audit.
In one of the more interesting findings by the state auditors, it appears Connecticut is out-sourcing a once profitable prison eyeglass manufacturing arrangement to Massachusetts.
Correctional Enterprises of Connecticut teaches inmates skills such as engraving, reupholstering and woodworking. The program generates revenue through the inmates supplying goods and services for fellow prisoners.
The program previously had an optical lab which made eyeglasses for inmates and generated $192,000 of net income per year, according to the auditor’s report.
However, in 2009 the lead optician retired and has not been replaced. Connecticut now outsources the to Massachusetts prisoners and the income from the eyeglass production has dropped to $38,000 per year.
The CEC claims that they were unable to hire another optician due to a hiring freeze and the costs of running and maintaining the optical lab were prohibitive.