California prison tests critical component of universal healthcare

A critical and well-known component of universal healthcare systems worldwide is being tested by the California State Prison, Sacramento, before a statewide single-payer program is implemented after the 2018 gubernatorial election.

A report issued in March by the Office of the Inspector General said the pilot program is going well.

Medical leadership at the prison described a “satisfyingly unprecedented inability to recruit and retain medical providers for the past 18 months,” said the report. “Due to the provider shortage, providers were each performing the work of two providers. Providers complained that the current work conditions were unsustainable, and many were actively looking for employment elsewhere.”

Prison_Doctor

A doctor at the California State Prison, Sacramento, looks in vain for help as “compassion fatigue” sets in.

The Sac Brie interviewed one of the report’s authors, who said that “prisons have a large population with serious mental health and behavioral problems, making them the perfect places to model the potential effects of doctor shortages statewide.”

In addition, California is known for having communities – in and out of prison – that do not comply with state or federal laws. This situation increases the already crushing burden on medical providers.

“When state lawmakers ourselves violate the law, and encourage others to do the same, hospitals have an even more difficult time providing accurate and true documentation to patients, other hospitals, insurance companies, and state licensing boards,” said Senate leader Kevin de Leon. “We needed an environment where we could model all the behaviors we expect to occur under our real world program – and we found it in a prison.”

But doctor shortages and mentally-ill lawbreaking patients are only part of what the pilot program is modeling. California can also expect a majority of residents to interfere with care plans, complicating normal scheduling mechanisms. And residents of the Golden State exhibit an alarming tendency to strain the social safety net, schools, the judicial system, transportation and water infrastructure, housing, and waste removal programs.

This type of behaviorally-challenged population perpetually shifts virtually all its burdens onto other citizens (aka “the state”), and all of these factors will be in play when Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom pushes voters to approve his single payer healthcare plan.

In that context, the state needs to know just how badly it can damage the morale of doctors, nurses, and other providers before “compassion fatigue” becomes fatal.

“What we’re really doing here, though, is more than just healthcare,” Newsom said. “We’re preparing to adopt the same kind of system that has been so successful in places like Cuba and Venezuela.”

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