"If we provided all these services at the Regional Jails, it would require additional personnel, but the savings should far offset the costs," said Sen. Donald Cookman, D-Hampshire, a retired circuit judge. "If we could offer these programs at the Regional Jails, there would be less need to send people out-of-state, would there not?"
Last Thursday, Corrections had a bid opening for proposals for out-of-state correctional facilities to house up to 400 West Virginia inmates. The only bidder was the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison operator, which proposed housing the inmates at its Lee Adjustment Center in eastern Kentucky.
Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein, who did not attend Monday's committee meeting, said he plans to send a team to the prison later this month to do an on-site inspection and staff interviews. There will be a separate bid opening late this month or early in January on CCA's cost proposal, at which point Corrections officials will decide whether to award a contract.
Also Monday, Nancy Adkins, commissioner of the Bureau of Medical Services, briefed legislators on plans to provide Medicaid coverage for some Corrections inmates.
Under federal Medicaid regulations, inmates who are hospitalized for periods of 24 hours or longer are eligible to have the costs of the hospital stay paid by Medicaid.
"It's certainly come to our attention, it's an opportunity to save money for the state," Adkins said.
"Medicaid can pick up their hospital costs, which will save the state dollars," she added.
Currently, Corrections has a contract with a private health-care company for inmate medical care within the institutions, and the state pays when inmates have to be transferred to hospitals for more intensive treatment, she said. Frequently, that involves expensive procedures such as heart surgery.
Adkins said that Corrections and the bureau adopt new policies to permit inmates to transfer to Medicaid for hospital care, but should not require legislation.Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.