Governor says state can't afford inmate bill

February 16, 2010 5:56:42 PM PST
Governor Beverly Perdue said Tuesday she's outraged after learning the state wasted millions on inmate healthcare. It's a problem she says she thought was fixed.

A former senator whom she recently appointed to the State Parole Commission is at the center of the controversy.

Perdue says the state can't afford the whopping inmate healthcare bill, but she stopped short of blaming anyone in particular.

"It's ridiculous. The cost is just way too high," Perdue said Tuesday.

According to a recent audit of the Department of Correction, major hospitals in the Triangle have billed the state millions in healthcare - sometimes four times more than Medicare or Medicaid.

"I thought it was fixed and it's not fixed and now I'm working very aggressively with the General Assembly to have another piece of legislation that will stand the mustard," said Perdue.

At the center of the controversy is the state's largest insurer - Blue Cross Blue Shield - and former state senator Tony Rand - recently appointed to the State Parole Commission.

News reports suggest changes Rand made to legislation last year - at the request of Blue Cross - are partly to blame for the state's huge inmate healthcare bill.

While frustrated, the Governor stopped short of pointing fingers.

"I don't have any idea what happened in that building or why it happened. I thought I signed a piece of legislation that fixed the problem and the next thing I know it was repealed in the Technical Corrections Act. I can't speak to what happened, I can only speak to what I'm very irritated about," said Perdue.

There are some potential savings in the future. Correction officials say a new hospital being built at Central Prison will include onsite chemotherapy and two operating rooms - saving about $30 million a year.

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