Competition Could Lower Costs of Prison Healthcare in Arizona

Letter to the Editor Submitted to the Arizona Republic

The Republic’s coverage of the current correctional healthcare privatization effort offered an incomplete and unbalanced view of this marketplace (“Arizona prisons in health-care quandary,” 2/17). Rather, the article seemed more designed to slight the firms bidding by focusing on lost contracts and out-of-context past performance issues.

Track records are certainly important, so why not also mention that the majority of correctional healthcare contracts are renewed or rebid, not cancelled? Why not talk to corrections officials in the wide range of other states that already use privatization to deliver a full spectrum of medical, mental health, dental and other prison healthcare services?

The private sector delivers the bulk of Americans’ healthcare services today, so it’s clearly not an inherently governmental function. Applying competition to drive down taxpayer costs in prisons makes sense, as healthcare delivery tends not to be a core competency of corrections agencies.

Hopefully readers hung on through the end, where the article acknowledges a fundamental reality: successful privatization requires strong contracts and public oversight. If the state keeps its eye on that ball, then privatization could offer a powerful way to transform prison healthcare while lowering costs.

Leonard Gilroy
Director of Government Reform, Reason Foundation