PA Lawmakers Should Encourage Prison Health Competition, Not Ban It

States across the U.S. continue to face budget woes. The latest budget estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show 29 states are projected to have, or have addressed, budget deficits totaling $44 billion in FY 2013. However as my colleague Anthony Randazzo and I explained last month, long-range U.S. Census Bureau data suggests state and local governments have a spending problem — not a revenue problem.

Pennsylvania fits all too comfortably within this narrative as its lawmakers are currently grappling with a $500 million budget deficit for FY 2013. My colleague Leonard Gilroy and I explain in our latest commentary entitled Lawmakers Should Encourage Prison Health Competition, Not Ban It:

(T)he last thing fiscally responsible policymakers should be doing is protecting sacred cows in government. Unfortunately, those trying to advance legislation to protect the jobs of Commonwealth prison nurses are attempting just that.

The legislation in question is House Bill 1985, which would prevent state funds appropriated to the Department of Corrections from being used to privatizing prison nursing services. There’s one glaring problem though: the state already partners with a range of private sector correctional healthcare professionals, including: physicians, mid-level providers, and nurses in some facilities.

The bill is a reactionary attempt to stifle a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of Corrections seeking two bids for comparative purposes, as we explain in the piece:

(O)ne that would maintain the current scope of outsourced services, and another that would expand the scope to include additional nursing positions. In essence, the corrections department is testing the market to see whether they should stay on their current path or if they can deliver more value to taxpayers by including more nurses.

Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is doing their due diligence in considering every way to deliver high quality healthcare to inmates at an affordable cost to taxpayers. At a time of ongoing budget woes one would think they’d receive praise, not prying, from state lawmakers. For more, read the full piece available online here.