AUSTIN, Texas — Health care money for Texas’ 156,000 prison inmates will be cut by $75 million in the new fiscal year starting Sept. 1 under a slimmed-down $3.06 billion budget Texas corrections officials disclosed Friday.
The health care reductions account for the largest difference from the $3.12 billion budgeted for the nation’s second-largest prison system in the 2011 fiscal year.
Specifics of the overall prison agency budget, with money approved by the Texas Legislature in the recently concluded session where a state budget shortfall overshadowed nearly all lawmakers’ work, were revealed at the Texas Board of Criminal Justice meeting in Austin.
“We will have our work cut out for us in terms of developing levels of service, developing partnerships and rate structures so we can make these appropriation levels work,” Brad Livingston, executive director of the Department of Criminal Justice, told the board. “We received certainly a very loud and clear message, along with our partners, that there’s an expectation that we develop cost-savings mechanisms and partnerships and overall approaches to make this work.”
Health care at more than 100 prisons has been the responsibility of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center for nearly two decades under contracts with the prison system. UTMB accounts for about 80 percent of the care, and officials there and at Texas Tech have said they provide the care at a deficit.
“The expectations on the part of everybody is that we develop a system, a partnership, and tighten those partnerships we have to make the funding levels work,” Livingston said.