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Home / Legislative / News / Cost of Emergency Room Visits for Jail Inmates Increases 60.7% in Five Years

Cost of Emergency Room Visits for Jail Inmates Increases 60.7% in Five Years


County jails are legally obligated to provide medical care to all inmates in their custody and control. This mandate can sometimes result in extraordinary costs when inmates need assistance in hospital emergency rooms.

In 2016, TAC collected data covering a multi-year period on the cost of this and other unfunded mandates. Unfortunately, many counties do not track these costs separately from other jail or medical costs. Consequently, only 41 counties were able to provide their expenditures for jail inmates’ trips to hospital emergency rooms for all six years of the survey period.

Extrapolating to all 254 counties shows emergency room expenditures of $42.8 million by FY 2016, up 60.7 percent from FY 2011. On a percentage basis, most of that increase came in FY 2014 when expenditures rose 22.5 percent as seen in the chart below.

For more information on the costs of unfunded mandates or the methodology used to create the statewide extrapolations, see The Cost of County Government: 2016 Unfunded Mandates Survey.