Republican Senate leaders recently praised the Alabama Department of Corrections for shaving nearly $24 million from inmate health care-related contracts.
And they'd like to see more such actions from more agencies.
The savings will be earned over three years and are in response to a request by the Senate when it allocated funding this year. It asked the DOC to cut about 10 percent from its health care spending.
"When we were doing this budget, we knew this contract was up, and the question was, why can't we get more savings?" said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, chairman of the Senate General Fund Budget Committee.
He said similar requests will be made of more state offices.
"I think it is a way to force agencies to take cost-saving measures a lot more seriously and to force the agencies to analyze their contracts and programs and make, where feasible, better decisions," Orr said.
He said other states require agencies to be more detailed in their budgeting, and he thinks should Alabama follow that example.
"I could envision in certain situations we will be challenging state agencies to take serious looks at their budgets and make limitations on their expenditures," he said.
The corrections' budget of $381 million this year is the state's second largest non-education expenditure after Medicaid.
The total cost of inmate health care contracts in fiscal year 2012 was $102 million. The new contracted amount is $90 million for this year, $94.5 million for fiscal 2014 and $98.2 million in fiscal 2015.
Alabamians now have quick access to information about health care-related infection rates at local hospitals.
The Alabama Department of Public Health made public last week a report, available at adph.org/hai, with statistics on four procedure-specific types of infections and how the infection rates compare to similar-sized hospitals.
The report is a result of a 2009 law passed by the state legislature. It requires all hospitals to report infection information to the Department of Public Health.
"Our advisory council suggested we begin the infection reporting program with categories of infections reported from certain units in the hospital," Dr. Don Williamson, state health officer, said in a written statement. "The categories include surgical site infections of the colon and abdomen, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and central line-associated blood stream infections. We believe these provide a good base for our program and cover infections that are important to good patient care."
Mary Sell is Montgomery bureau chief for the TimesDaily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.