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Health care costs climb for aging Minn. prisoners

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As health care costs continue to rise, so does the aging population of prisoners in state correctional facilities, which cost Minnesota $65 million in medical expenses last fiscal year.

KSTP reports the average cost of health care for an inmate was about $7,000 in 2012, double the cost in 2000.

Terry Carlson, deputy commissioner of the institutions division for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, tells KSTP as the average prisoner gets older, health problems become are more prevalent.

"There are issues like diabetes. There are issues of cancer. There are issues of dementia," Carlson says.

About 14 percent of inmates in Minnesota are now over the age of 50.

The state is looking for ways to bring down prices for the most expensive services. In the meantime, more beds have become available for inmates that require around the clock care or have mobility issues.

Also, certain in-house services like dialysis and mammograms have been moved in-house so patients don't have to go to outside facilities to get care.

According to a USA TODAY report, the growing number of older prisoners represents a potential fiscal time bomb because nearly all expenses are paid for with state tax dollars.

"We have created this situation where people are destined to do long terms in a criminal justice system that was not designed to be a long-term care facility," said Tina Maschi, a Fordham University professor who is conducting a study on New Jersey's older inmate population.

There were an estimated 246,000 people over 50 behind bars in the country last year.

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